Five killed in Bnei Brak shooting as Israel enters 'new wave of terror'

Israel in the midst of new wave of terror - Bennett • PA's Mahmoud Abbas condemns attack in rare statement

Emergency responders at the scene of an attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022. (CREDIT: ISRAEL POLICE SPOKESPERSONS UNIT)

Five people were killed by a Palestinian terrorist in a shooting attack in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city of Bnei Brak on Tuesday night.

The shooting was first reported around 8:00 p.m. on HaShnaim Street. One person was found lifeless in a car and two other people were shot dead on a nearby sidewalk. A video later circulating on social media showed the attacker yelling in Arabic, shooting bystanders with an assault rifle on a residential street.

Another Israeli was found dead on Herzl street, perpendicular to HaShnaim Street. Yaakov Shalom, a Bnei Brak resident and father of five, and rabbi Avishai Yehezkeli, a yeshiva teacher and father of two, were identified as two of the five people killed in the attack. Victor Sorokopot, 38, and Dimitri Mitrik, 23, two workers from Ukraine, were also identified as victims of the attack.

The shooter was later shot dead by a police officer who arrived at the scene on a motorcycle. The officer, 32-year-old Arab Christian Amir Khouri, was evacuated to Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in critical condition and died from his wounds soon after, making him the fifth victim.

The shooter was identified as Dia Hamarsha, 27, from the village of Ya'bad in the northern West Bank near Jenin. He was jailed for six months in 2015 for dealing in illegal firearms and affiliation with a terrorist group, and had worked illegally at a Bnei Brak construction site.

Another person was arrested at the scene and investigated on suspicion of assisting the shooter, and a third person was arrested later on Tuesday night further east on Jabotinsky Street. 

Emergency responders at the scene of an attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022. (CREDIT: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi, Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai and Shin Bet head Ronen Bar to discuss the attack and rule on Israel's response.

In the meantime, Israel Police was put on its highest alert level for the first time since Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021. Shabtai decided that the police will focus on visible public security and will put more officers on the streets and in crowded areas. The IDF also announced that it was also sending reinforcements to the West Bank. 

Bystanders repeatedly disrupted reporters on air with chants of "Death to the Arabs" and calls against Bennett and Bar Lev. A crowd attempted to overturn a car they suspected of belonging to the terrorist.

Israeli security forces conducted a widespread arrest campaign throughout the West Bank early Wednesday morning in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus, Bethlehem, Kedum, Ramallah, Marda, Ya'bad, and villages south of Bethlehem.

In a rare statement, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas condemned the terrorist attack late on Tuesday, Israeli media reported.

"The killing of Israeli and Palestinian civilians will only lead to a deterioration of the situation ahead of Ramadan," the PA head said. "We are trying to obtain some stability."

Abbas also warned, however, against using the attack as justification for settler violence against Palestinians. "This circle of violence shows true, lasting peace is the only solution to maintaining the security and stability for our peoples."

The Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv condemned the deadly terror attack on Wednesday, tweeting "We are saddened that at least 5 people lost their lives in the terrorist attack carried out on the evening of 29 March in Bnei Brak. We condemn this terrorist attack."

The embassy expressed concerns that the attacks could "drag the region back into conflict ahead of the upcoming month of Ramadan and Passover Holiday."

"We extend our condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in Bnei Brak, as well as to the Government and the people of Israel, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured," added the embassy.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also issued a statement condemning the terror attack in Bnei Brak.

"We strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack today in Bnei Brak, the third terrorist attack in Israel in a week," he tweeted. "We send our condolences to the families of the victims of these tragic attacks. May their memories be a blessing."

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan condemned the attack as well. "We are appalled by the terrorist attack tonight near Tel Aviv and stand with our Israeli allies in the face of such barbarism," he tweeted. "This is the third such attack in eleven days. We have offered all relevant support to Prime Minister Bennett and his government," he added.

He went on to say that the United States is unwavering in its commitment to partners confronting terrorism in their streets. "Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and we wish a speedy recovery to the wounded," Sullivan wrote.

Hamas praised the attack in a statement on its website.

"Responding to the crimes and terrorism of the occupation is a legitimate right for all our people until the occupation is removed from our land," it said.

"The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) blesses the heroic operation against the Zionist occupation soldiers in the so-called 'Tel Aviv' area, which led to the killing and wounding of a number of Zionist occupiers, and stresses that all the heroic operations carried out by our Palestinian people, in every inch of our occupied land, comes in the context of the natural and legitimate response to the terrorism of the occupation and its escalating crimes against our land, our people and our sanctities."

"We have repeatedly warned the occupation of the consequences of escalating its violations and crimes, as our Palestinian people will not remain passive in front of it, and will confront its terrorism by all means, and they will protect their sanctuary, the farthest corner and the entire occupied lands, and he will defend it with comprehensive resistance, which will continue to deter the occupation, and to restrain its aggression, until its departure from our land," Hamas said.

The shooting in Bnai Brak was the latest attack in a new wave of terrorism, marked by the stabbing of four Israelis in Beersheba last week and the shooting of two Border Police officers in Hadera on Sunday night. 

Tensions have risen in anticipation of the upcoming month of Ramadan and the annual Land Day, marked on March 30 every year since six Arab-Israelis were killed in Galilee protests against the planned expropriation of land on March 30, 1976.

Omri Nahmias and Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.