Israel said Thursday it had suspended entry permits for 83,000 Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan after two Palestinians opened fire near a popular open-air market in central Tel Aviv, killing four people.
“All permits for Ramadan, especially permits for family visits from Judea and Samaria to Israel, are frozen,” said a statement from COGAT, the unit which manages civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank.
It said that 83,000 Palestinians would be affected, adding that 200 residents of Gaza who had received permits to visit relatives during Ramadan would also have access frozen.
The shooting occurred on Wednesday night at the Sarona market, a series of restored buildings that have been transformed into a popular tourist spot filled with crowded shops and restaurants. The complex is across the street from Israel’s military headquarters and is often filled with tourists and young soldiers in uniform.
At least five people were also wounded in one of the deadliest attacks in an eight-month wave of violence.
Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, welcomed the attack but did not claim responsibility for it. Hamas official Mushir al-Masri called the shootings a “heroic operation” and the group later issued an official statement promising the “Zionists” more “surprises” during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, returning from a visit to Moscow, rushed directly to the Defense Ministry to assess the situation with senior ministers and security chiefs. He toured the scene later and described the attack as “cold-blooded murder.”
“We held a consultation about the series of offensive and defensive measures that we will implement to act against the grave phenomenon of shootings. They certainly challenge us, but we will provide an answer,” Netanyahu told reporters.
In the past half year, Palestinian attacks have killed 32 Israelis and two visiting U.S. citizens. Israeli forces have shot dead at least 196 Palestinians, 134 of whom Israel has said were assailants. Others were killed in clashes and protests.
Tensions over Jewish access to a volatile and contested Jerusalem holy site, revered by Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and Jews as Temple Mount, have fueled the violence.
Israel says incitement in the Palestinian media and personal problems at home have been important factors spurring assailants, often teenagers, to carry out attacks.