A knife-wielding man on Tuesday killed four people and seriously wounded two others in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba before he was shot dead by armed residents, police said.
Police said the attacker careened his car into a cyclist and stabbed five people across a swath of the city centre. Amateur video footage posted online appeared to show armed bystanders shooting and killing the attacker at the scene.
Israeli police chief Kobi Shabtai told reporters at a press briefing at the scene that the incident was "an abominable killing spree by a terrorist known to security services" who had previously served prison time. He said the attacker appeared to have acted alone.
Shabtai declined to comment further on the suspect, but Israeli media identified the attacker as a 34-year-old Arab man from the nearby Bedouin town of Hura. Reports said he was imprisoned for four years after admitting he intended to join the Islamic State group in Syria in 2015.
Tensions have been on the rise in Israel and the Palestinian territories as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in April this year, approaches — a period when violence has erupted in the past.
In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israeli security forces were exercising "maximum vigilance" in the wake of the attack. It was the highest death toll in a single attack against Israelis since 2017, when a Palestinian rammed his truck into a group of soldiers visiting a Jerusalem promenade, killing four of them. He was shot dead.
Several Palestinian stabbing attacks have occurred in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent weeks, with some of the suspected assailants shot dead by Israeli forces.
Washington condemns 'abhorrent' attack
Omer Barlev, the minister in charge of police, wrote on Twitter that the attack was committed "by a cursed terrorist that it would have been better if he hadn't been freed from prison in 2019."
Bennett issued a statement of condolences to the families of the victims and said "we will work with a heavy hand against those who commit terror. We will pursue and reach those who assist them, too."
Washington strongly condemned the "abhorrent … terrorist attack," U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, offering condolences to the victims and their families.
The Hamas militant group's spokesperson, Hazem Qassem, praised the attack as "a response to the policy of ethnic expulsion" against the Arab citizens of Israel.
With files from Reuters
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