At least two killed in shooting at crowded bar in central Tel Aviv

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A gunman has opened fire into a crowded bar in central Tel Aviv, killing at least two people and wounding several others before fleeing into a dense residential area, Israeli officials said.

Police said there were “indications” it was a politically motivated attack – the fourth deadly assault in Israel in less than three weeks at a time of heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

The militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip praised the attack but did not claim responsibility.

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Hours after the shooting on Thursday night, the suspected gunman remained at large.

Hundreds of Israeli police officers, canine units, and army special forces were conducting a massive manhunt in central Tel Aviv, searching building by building through densely populated residential neighbourhoods.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with top security officials and ordered reinforcements into the city.

An Israeli special forces soldier searches for assailants near the scene of a shooting attack in Tel Aviv. Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP

“Wherever the terrorist is, we’ll get to him. And everyone who helped him indirectly or directly will pay a price,” he said in a statement.

Amichai Eshed, the Tel Aviv police commander, said the shooter opened fire at a packed bar about 9pm and then fled the scene.

“Our working assumption is that he is still in the vicinity,” he told reporters.

“There are indications pointing to this being a terrorist attack, but I have to be very delicate about this, and say that we are also checking other leads.”

Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service said two men were killed. Another seven people were wounded, three of them seriously, it said.

A woman is treated near the scene of the shooting attack in Tel Aviv, Israel.
A woman is treated near the scene of the shooting attack in Tel Aviv, Israel. Credit: Ariel Schalit/AP

The shooting took place on Dizengoff Street, a central thoroughfare that has been the scene of other attacks over the years. In the most recent, an Arab citizen of Israel shot and killed two Israelis and wounded several others on the street in January 2016.

Thursday’s attack took place at the start of the Israeli weekend in the popular nightlife area. Medics described scenes of panic, with dozens of people fleeing after the shots rang out.

Tensions have been high after a series of attacks by Palestinian assailants killed 11 people just ahead of the holy Islamic month of Ramadan, which began nearly a week ago.

Last year, protests and clashes in Jerusalem during Ramadan ignited an 11-day Gaza war.

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