Israel yesterday clamped down on Palestinian movements and planned to deploy more troops after Palestinian gunmen shot dead four people at a popular Tel Aviv nightspot, the deadliest attack in a months-long wave of violence.
Surveillance video that spread online showed two assailants dressed in black suits and ties calmly walking into a cafe before pulling out guns and opening fire.
Most patrons fled in panic, though some fought back at the cafe at Sarona Market in Israel’s commercial capital.
Five people were wounded in addition to the four killed.
The cafe was open again yesterday and was about half full in the afternoon.
On the grass nearby, teenagers sat in a circle playing guitars and singing: “Don’t be afraid, if you are alone, be strong.”
Israel’s government said it had revoked entry permits for more than 80,000 Palestinians during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, a move likely to further stoke tensions.
It was also sending two additional battalions - hundreds more troops - into the occupied West Bank.
New Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered that the bodies of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks no longer be returned to their families for burial, a spokesman said.
The policy is backed by Israeli hawks as a deterrent measure.
Enacting it was the hardliner’s first major decision related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since he took office on May 30.
Wednesday night’s victims were identified as Ido Ben Aryeh, 42, Ilana Nave, 39, Michael Feige, 58, and Mila Mishayev, 32, all Israelis.
One of their attackers was arrested, while the other was under guard in hospital after being wounded by gunfire.
They were identified as Khaled Mohamed Makhamrah, 22, and his cousin Mohamed Ahmad Makhamrah, 21, both from the Hebron area in the occupied West Bank.
It was a first major test for Lieberman, who has in the past threatened severe action against Palestinian “terrorists”.
He visited the scene yesterday and ordered lunch at the cafe where the attack occurred.
Israel’s security cabinet met later at the defence ministry, across the street.
At the meeting, Lieberman reportedly pushed for even faster punitive demolitions of Palestinian attackers’ homes.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had already fast-tracked such demolitions after the current wave of violence broke out in October.
It was not yet clear if the attackers were acting alone or as part of a larger plot.
A spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and which is also present in the West Bank, called the attack a “heroic operation”.
One of Israel’s first responses was to revoke tens of thousands of Palestinian entry permits for Ramadan.
COGAT, the defence ministry unit which manages civilian affairs in the West Bank, said that 83,000 Palestinians would be affected.
The measures also included revoking work permits for 204 of the attackers’ clan.
Israel’s army locked down the Palestinian town of Yatta, where the assailants were from, with soldiers patrolling and stopping cars as they entered and exited.
“Yatta village has been completely cordoned off,” the government said after the security cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu visited the scene of the shooting yesterday evening for the second time in less than 24 hours.
In remarks broadcast live he said an accomplice of the two assailants had been arrested, but did not elaborate.
“I heard with appreciation the harsh and unequivocal condemnations from the leading capitals of the world on the matter of this heinous murder,” he said.
“I did not hear such condemnation from the Palestinian Authority.”
UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov, said “all must reject violence and say no to terror”.
“I am also shocked to see Hamas welcome the terror attack,” he said.
Violence since October has killed at least 207 Palestinians, 32 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.
Most of the Palestinians were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.
Others were killed in clashes with security forces or by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip.
The violence has declined in recent weeks, though attacks have continued.
Tel Aviv saw two other major incidents this year.
In March, as US Vice President Joe Biden visited, a Palestinian went on a stabbing spree along the Tel Aviv seafront, killing an American tourist and wounding 12 people.
On January 1, an Arab Israeli killed three people in a rampage in the city.
Analysts say Palestinian frustration with Israeli occupation and settlement-building in the West Bank, the complete lack of progress in peace efforts and their own fractured leadership have fed the unrest.
Israel says incitement by Palestinian leaders and media is a leading cause of the violence.
Last week in Paris, representatives from 28 countries, the Arab League, European Union and United Nations met to discuss ways of restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
Negotiations have been at a complete standstill since a US-led initiative collapsed in April 2014.
Abbas rejects violence
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said yesterda it rejected violence against civilians after Palestinian gunmen killed four people in Tel Aviv, but stopped short of condemning the attack outright.
The presidency said in a statement it has “rejected repeatedly all operations that affect civilians from whichever party it comes from, and whatever the justifications.”
“Achieving a just peace and creating a positive climate is what will contribute to removing and reducing the causes of tension and violence in this region.”
Abbas has repeatedly called for non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation, but has never condemned a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car-ramming attacks that began in October.
He has said that the true cause of the violence is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and continuous settlement building, which Abbas says have robbed young Palestinians of any hope in the future.
Abbas’s rival Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and calls for Israel’s destruction, called the attack a “heroic operation.”
An Israeli soldier stops a Palestinian woman and her son at the entrance of Yatta near the West Bank city of Hebron yesterday.