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Israel shooting: Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemns violence against civilians after Tel Aviv attack

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement condemning violence against civilians following an attack on shoppers and diners in the Sarona precinct of Tel Aviv in Israel.

Two Palestinians opened fire near a popular open-air market on Wednesday night, killing four Israelis and wounding nine others, in one of the deadliest attacks in an eight-month wave of violence.

The shooting occurred at the Sarona market, a series of restored buildings transformed into a popular tourist spot filled with crowded shops and restaurants. The complex is across the street from Israel's military headquarters and is often filled with tourists and young soldiers in uniform.

A statement from Mahmoud Abbas's office said: "The presidency has repeatedly emphasised that it stands against attacks on civilians, regardless of their sources or justifications.

"Achieving just peace and creating a positive atmosphere is the way to ease tension and end violence."

Meanwhile Israel has suspended most special permits for Palestinians to visit the country during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and beefed up police patrols in Tel Aviv after two gunmen killed four Israelis in Tel Aviv.

COGAT, an Israeli defence body, said 83,000 permits for Palestinians in the West Bank to visit relatives in Israel during Ramadan had been frozen. Israel considers the Ramadan permits a goodwill gesture toward Palestinians.

The Ramadan permits were also suspended for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including permits to visit relatives in Israel, travel abroad and attend prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, COGAT said.

"All permits for Ramadan, especially permits for family visits from Judea and Samaria to Israel, are frozen," COGAT said in a statement.

The military has also frozen Israeli work permits for 204 of the gunmen's relatives, and is preventing Palestinians from leaving and entering the West Bank village of Yatta, the attackers' home, except for humanitarian and medical cases.

In Tel Aviv, extra police units have been mobilised, mainly around the city's central bus and train stations, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met his defence minister and security leaders shortly after the attack and then travelled to the scene. He called the attack a "cold-blooded murder by despicable terrorists".

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, welcomed the attack but did not claim responsibility for it. Hamas official Mushir al-Masri called the shootings a "heroic operation" and the group later issued an official statement promising the "Zionists" more "surprises" during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Channel 10 aired CCTV footage from inside a restaurant showing two men in suits shooting at diners as they run away from their tables. One of the attackers shoots a man on the ground and waves a knife before running out.

Shlomi Hajaj, director of the market, told the station that security guards at the entrance prevented the attackers from entering, "averting a bigger disaster" as it was packed with people.

Police said the two gunmen were members of the same family from Yatta, near the West Bank city of Hebron, which has been a flashpoint for violence in recent months.

Over the last eight months Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks on civilians and security forces, mostly stabbings, shootings and car ramming assaults that have killed 32 Israelis and two Americans.

About 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time.  The majority of Palestinians were killed while carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.

Two weeks ago Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan halted the return of the bodies of dead Palestinians to their families.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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