A shooting in central Tel Aviv on Thursday evening in an area with several bars and restaurants packed with people killed at least two people and injured several, Israeli medics said.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately clear, but it came amid heightened tensions after a series of deadly attacks by Palestinians.
Live footage from Israel’s Kan channel shows police flooding the area and training their guns on the top floor of a building. It also showed some kind of explosion.
“A terrorist opened fire at close range and then fled on foot. Several people were injured,” police spokesman Eli Levy told Channel 13 television, Reuters reported.
‘Don’t leave your house. Don’t stick your head out the window. Stay off your balcony,’ Levy said.
Israeli emergency service Magen David Adom said it received reports of a shooting at “several scenes” around central Tel Aviv. It said it had evacuated six people to a nearby hospital, three of whom were in serious or critical condition.
The nearby Ichilov hospital said two people had died and was treating eight more injured.
At least one shooting occurred on Dizengoff Street, a central thoroughfare and popular weekend hangout. Police urged people to avoid the area.
TV footage showed armed officers running down Dizengoff Street and side streets to track down the attacker, Reuters reported.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was monitoring the situation from Israel’s military headquarters, which is also located in central Tel Aviv, his office said.
Tensions have been running high after a series of attacks by Palestinian assailants killed 11 people just before the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began almost a week ago.
Last month, a gunman on a motorcycle opened fire in a city in central Israel.† Days before, a pair of gunmen killed two young police officers in a shooting spree in the central city of Hadera, and the week before, a lone attacker killed four people in a car-ramming and stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba.
Last year, protests and clashes during Ramadan sparked an 11-day Gaza war.
Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders have held a series of meetings in recent weeks and Israel has taken a number of steps to ease tensions, including issuing thousands of additional work permits to Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.
Prior to the attack, Israel had said it would allow women, children and men over 40 from the occupied West Bank to pray Friday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, the first weekly prayers of the Israelis. Ramadan. Tens of thousands were expected.
The mosque is the third holiest site in Islam and sits on a hilltop that is the most sacred site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. The holy site has long been a flashpoint for Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East War. The Palestinians want all three areas to form their future state. The last serious and substantive peace talks broke down more than a decade ago and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is against the Palestinian state.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move that is not recognized internationally and considers the entire city its capital.
It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but along with neighboring Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on the area after the militant Hamas group seized power from rival Palestinian forces two years later. Israel and Hamas have fought four wars since then.
This is a story in development and will be updated.