An Arab assailant killed at least four people in Israel’s southern city of Beersheba on Tuesday in the deadliest such attack in years, before he was fatally shot by a passerby, police said.
Police identified the attacker as an Arab citizen of Israel, a former high school teacher who had been imprisoned over alleged links to Islamic State.
Police spokesman Eli Levy said “a civilian took the initiative and shot and killed” the knife-wielding assailant, a confrontation on a busy city street that later played out in videos filmed by onlookers and broadcast on Israeli television.
Tensions have been on the rise in Israel and the Palestinian territories as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in April this year, approaches. It is a period when violence has erupted in the past.
In a statement, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israeli security forces were exercising “maximum vigilance” in the wake of the attack.
Washington strongly condemned the “abhorrent … terrorist attack,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, offering condolences to the victims and their families.
“We stand ready to provide support to the Israeli government’s efforts to investigate this heinous crime,” Price said at a regular press briefing.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service and police said three women and a man were killed by the assailant, who rammed his car into one victim and stabbed others at a petrol station and at an outdoor shopping center. At least two other people were wounded.
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.