Bnei Brak, Israel: “I was supposed to go to study today, but now I’m going to a funeral,” laments Shlomo Alperin, 23, still in shock from witnessing the most violent attack in years in greater Tel Aviv.
From his flat in Bnei Brak, the ultra-Orthodox man heard bursts of gunfire on Tuesday night, before seeing his neighbour’s body crumpled in a car, and two men dead at a cafe often frequented by Ukrainian construction workers.
The police and Ukrainian embassy confirmed on Wednesday the death of two Ukrainian nationals, in addition to two Israeli civilians and a police officer.
“It’s painful. It’s your neighbours,” said Alperin. “My neighbour lost his life for nothing.”
Police identified the perpetrator as Diaa Armashah, 27, a Palestinian from the West Bank village of Yabad. They said he had arrived at a central street in Bnei Brak armed with an M-16 assault rifle and opened fire on passers-by before being shot dead by officers.
The slain Israelis, Yaakov Shalom, 36, and Avishai Yehezkel, 29, both ultra-Orthodox residents of Bnei Brak, were being laid to rest in their city on Wednesday.
The two Ukrainians who lost their lives were construction workers, said Lior Rahimi, pointing to a corner shop and cafe.
They “used to sit here for hours each day after work”, said the 38-year-old, describing them as friendly and helpful men.
The Bnei Brak shooting rampage was the third fatal attack in the Jewish state in the past week.
On Sunday, an Israeli Arab shot dead two police officers in the northern city of Hadera, in an assault claimed by Daesh.
And last Tuesday, an Arab Israeli who had previously tried to join Daesh killed four people by stabbing and ramming his vehicle in the southern city of Beersheba.
The latest attack on the central city of Bnei Brak reminded residents of the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, two decades ago when Palestinian assailants killed hundreds of Israeli civilians.
“There is real fear!” said Neta Levi, a mother of two. “It’s scary to be on the street, and I’m going to reduce my outings.
“I’m going to avoid places where there are a lot of people,” she told AFP in Ramat Gan, a city next to Bnei Brak, saying she avoided telling her sons, aged seven and 11, to “so they don’t get scared”.
“I don’t think it’s really possible to prevent attacks even if we increase security on the streets,” the 37-year-old artist said.
Shlomi Roth said his wife wanted to keep their children at home.
“She’s shocked. It’s the first time it’s happened here in a really long time,” the 27-year-old Bnei Brak resident said.
Shlomi Raichman, another Bnei Brak resident, said: “Until now it seemed far from us, but now it’s come close, and the feeling is that we are not protected they way we should be.”