Four dead in stabbing, car-ramming in southern Israel

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A man wielding a knife stabbed several people and ran over another in southern Israel on Tuesday, with the prime minister promising a crackdown on “terrorists” after the incident which left four dead.

The unrest at a gas station and outside a shopping center in the southern city of Beersheba began shortly after 4:00 pm (1400 GMT), police and emergency medical responders said.

After arriving at the gas station, the assailant left his car and “stabbed a woman,” according to police.

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He then returned to his car and rammed it into a 60-year-old man on his bicycle outside the shopping center.

The suspect then left his car again and began stabbing others around the shopping center, according to police and the Magen David Adom emergency medical response organization.

Police said that “civilians who were at the scene fired [at the suspect] and neutralized him,” without specifying the suspect’s condition.

An MDA spokesman told AFP that four people had been killed.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said he held “a consultation with the minister of internal security and the commissioner of the police” following the attack.

He later praised those who shot the alleged assailant, saying they “showed resourcefulness and courage and prevented further casualties.”

“Security forces are on high alert. We will work hard against terrorists. We will pursue them as well and those who help them,” the Israeli premier tweeted.

Hamas, the Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, released a statement that did not claim the attack but blamed it on Israel’s treatments of Palestinians.

Speaking to a Hamas-controlled radio station, group spokesman Hazem Qassem said the “operation is a response to the policy of ethnic displacement practiced by Israel against our Palestinian people inside the occupied territories.”

Stabbing and car-ramming attacks, often by lone Palestinian assailants, are common in Israel.

But its southern region, including Beersheba, have recently been spared such violence, with much of it instead concentrated in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem or the occupied West Bank.

Recent unrest in the south has involved clashes between Israel’s Bedouin community - part of Israel’s 20 percent Arab minority - and security forces.

There were no immediate details from police on any possible affiliations of the presumed attacker.

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