Four Israelis – three women and a man – have been killed in the southern city of Beersheba by an Israeli Bedouin with links to the Islamic State terror group. Two other women were stabbed and seriously wounded.
According to the police, the assailant arrived at a petrol station in Beersheba where he stabbed a woman. He then returned to his car, rammed into a cyclist and parked at an outdoor shopping mall where he stabbed another man and a woman.
Video from the scene then showed the man confronted by an armed bus driver, who attempted to get him to lower his knife. But the attacker lunged at him and was then shot several times, by the bus driver and by a second armed civilian.
The stabber was identified as 34-year-old Mohammad Ghaleb Abu al-Qi'an, an Israeli Arab and a former teacher from the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev desert, close to Beersheba. He had served a four-year prison term in Israel for Islamic State activity, including trying to travel to Syria to join the terror group's fighters but was released after expressing regret over his actions.
Hamas spokesman Abd al-Latif al-Qanou welcomed the attack, saying "the crimes of the occupation are met only with heroic stabbing, ramming and shooting operations".
The Islamic Jihad said "the operation comes in the natural context of responding to the crimes of Zionist terrorism in the occupied Negev".
This is the third stabbing attack in Israel in a week.
Tensions have been on the rise in Israel and the West Bank as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts at the beginning of April, approaches – a period when violence has erupted in the past.
Prime minister Naftali Bennett held emergency security consultations on Israel’s response and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims, saying “the civilians who shot the terrorist showed resourcefulness and courage and prevented further casualties”.
He added that security forces were on high alert and would operate with a heavy hand against terrorists and those assisting them.
Mr Bennett had just returned from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh where he had participated in a trilateral summit with Egypt's president Abdel Fattah Sisi and Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan in what appeared to be an attempt to demonstrate a united front against the likely renewal of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
The Yisrael Hayom newspaper quoted an unnamed Israeli official explaining that the reason behind the previously unannounced summit was all three sides' anger at the US over the progress of the nuclear talks in Vienna and the Biden administration's willingness to remove Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps from its list of terrorist organisations.