Tel Aviv (TPS) – Following Wednesday night’s terror attack in Tel Aviv that left 4 dead and eleven injured, newly appointed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman will face his first decisive act in his post.
“I’m not going to settle for just talk,” Liberman vowed on Thursday morning at the site of the shooting at Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market, adding that he “would not detail his plans” of how to respond to the incident.
The two terrorists, Khaled Muhammed Musa Mkhamra and Muhammed Ahmed Mkhamra, cousins from the village of Yatta just south of Hebron, opened fire outside the Max Brenner cafe in the central Tel Aviv shopping district Sarona Market. Both were dressed in black suits and ties – eyewitnesses told police they looked like “lawyers.”
The terrorists were both arrested at the scene of the attack. Israeli military forces cordoned off the village later that night and made several other arrests, the IDF announced. IDF forces mapped out the home of one of the terrorists for demolition, in keeping with Israeli policy to destroy the homes of terrorists as a deterrent.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan called for drastic action on Thursday at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies, saying “the most important deterrent is the expulsion of families of terrorists from the country.”
“Life in the village of Yatta won’t carry on as usual,” Ben-Dahan added. “A village that has terrorists leaving from its midst will pay the price.”
Prior to becoming defense minister, Liberman earned a reputation for advocating hawkish approaches towards Palestinian terrorism. After a terror attack last October, for example, he demanded to ease the restrictions on the use of deadly force, declaring that “no terrorist should come out of an attack alive.”
Aside from Ben-Dahan, other voices in the Israeli government likewise called for an aggressive Israeli response to the terror attack.
“The village that the terrorists came from needs to be dealt with at the source– something that will go down in its history” Information Minister Yisrael Katz told Israel’s Army Radio. “It should be quarantined for a long time.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, struck a more restrained note.
“We held a meeting and discussed defensive and offensive measures to be taken as we handle this incident. It is certainly a challenge, one we are ready to respond to,” Netanyahu said Wednesday night, speaking from the scene of the shooting shortly after. “Police will be taking vigorous action. We are in the midst of a difficult time. We will act firmly and wisely.”
The Hamas terror organization praised the attack on Twitter, calling it “heroic” and “the first of the surprises that await the Zionist enemy during the month of Ramadan.” The rival Palestinian Fatah party, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a statement describing the attack as a “reaction” to Israeli “violations against our people.” The mayor of Yatta claimed the two terrorists were not affiliated with any terrorist organization.
Palestinians across Judea and Samaria and Gaza broke out in spontaneous celebrations shortly after the attack, including dozens of Palestinians clapping and cheering at the Damascus Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Tel Aviv attack is the latest in a wave of terrorism against Israelis rocking the country for the last several months, including a New Year’s Day shooting in Tel Aviv that killed three Israelis.
Police are increasing security in Israeli cities in anticipation of rising tensions with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which falls on Sunday. The IDF announced on Thursday that it would send two additional battalions to Judea and Samaria. The Jerusalem Police announced thousands of officers will be deployed in eastern Jerusalem for the Friday Ramadan prayers.
Jesse Lempel contributed to this report.