A gunman on a motorcycle shot dead at least five people in Israel in the third deadly attack of its kind within a week.
Residents in Bnei Brak, one of the country’s most populous ultra-Orthodox Jewish areas, and the neighboring town of Ramat Gan reported that a man had driven around and opened fire at passers-by on Tuesday.
The shootings just t the east of Tel Aviv – in which a police officer was said to be among those killed – comes as Israel security forces are on high alert after attacks last Tuesday and Sunday by Israeli Arabs inspired by the Islamic State extremist group, which left six people dead.
Israeli media said the perpetrator of the latest attack was a 27-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank.
Police said a preliminary investigation found the gunman was armed with an assault rifle and opened fire on passersby before he was shot by officers at the scene.
Israel “stands before a wave of murderous Arab terrorism,” declared Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
He pledged to combat it “with perseverance, stubbornness and an iron fist.” He held an emergency meeting of top security officials and planned a meeting of his Security Cabinet on Wednesday.
Israeli authorities have not yet determined whether the attacks were organized or whether the attackers acted individually.
The Israeli military announced it would be deploying additional troops to the West Bank, and the police chief raised the national readiness level to its highest.
Amateur video footage aired on Israeli television appeared to show the gunman in a black shirt armed with an assault rifle stopping a moving vehicle and shooting the driver.
Another showed him chasing a cyclist, with the gun appearing to jam as he tried to fire.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack, saying the killing of Israeli or Palestinian civilians “only leads to further deterioration of the situation and instability, which we all strive to achieve, especially as we are approaching the holy month of Ramadan and Christian and Jewish holidays.”
He said the violence “confirms that permanent, comprehensive and just peace is the shortest way to provide security and stability for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.”
No Palestinian groups immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The Islamist militant group Hamas praised the “heroic operation,” but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
Israel in recent weeks has been taking steps aimed at calming tensions and avoiding a repeat of last year, when clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian demonstrators in Jerusalem boiled over into an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.
But the new wave of violence is greatly complicating those efforts.
On Sunday, a pair of gunmen killed two young police officers during a shooting in the central city of Hadera, and last week, a lone assailant killed four people in a car ramming and stabbing attack in the southern city of Beersheba.
Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli security services raided the homes of at least 12 Arab citizens and arrested two suspected of having ties to the Islamic State group in a crackdown sparked by recent deadly attacks.
Hours before the raid, Bennett said the recent assaults inside Israel marked a “new situation” that required stepped-up security measures.
Law enforcement officials said 31 homes and sites were searched overnight in northern Israel, an area that was home to the gunmen who carried out the Hadera attack.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the two previous attacks.
There had been fears of further incidents in the month ahead, when the Muslim festival of Ramadan, the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian festival of Easter coincide in a rare convergence.