Israel has deployed hundreds of additional troops to the occupied West Bank in response to an attack that killed four people at a popular Tel Aviv nightspot.
The Israeli military announced on Thursday that it was deploying two additional battalions to the West Bank “in accordance with situation assessments”.
The deployment, involving hundreds of troops, includes soldiers from infantry and special forces units.
The announcement coincided with the meeting of Israel’s Security Cabinet to discuss further responses.
Earlier on Thursday, defence officials suspended tens of thousands of special permits given to Palestinians to visit Israel during the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
COGAT, an Israeli defence body, said 83,000 permits for Palestinians in the West Bank to visit relatives in Israel had been frozen.
Special Ramadan permits were also suspended for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to visit relatives in Israel, travel abroad and attend prayers at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, COGAT said.
In addition, the military said it had frozen Israeli work permits for 204 of the attackers’ relatives, and was preventing Palestinians from leaving and entering the West Bank village of Yatta, the attackers’ home village.
COGAT said entering or leaving will only be permitted for humanitarian and medical cases.
West Bank and Gaza were effectively been sealed off in the aftermath of the attack.
‘Second attack in six months’
In Tel Aviv, extra police units were mobilised, mainly around the city’s central bus station and train stations, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.
Surveillance video, seemingly from the moment of the attack on Wednesday, showed the two men dressed in black suits and ties, calmly walking into a cafe before pulling out guns and opening fire on its terrace.
Most patrons fled in panic, though some fought back at the cafe at Sarona Market in Israel’s commercial capital.
At one point, one of the attackers threw a handgun to the ground in frustration as two of the victims lay motionless on the terrace.
The market and complex of bars and restaurants is located across the street from Israel’s defence ministry and main army headquarters.
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Five people were wounded in addition to the four killed. The suspects were reportedly Palestinian and disguised as Orthodox Jews.
“This is the second such attack in six months,” said Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid, reporting from Tel Aviv. “The atmosphere here is one of defiance.”
Those killed were all Israelis, identified as Ido Ben Aryeh, 42, Ilana Nave, 39, Michael Feige, 58, and Mila Mishayev, 32, police said.
One of the attackers was arrested, while the other was wounded by gunfire and had undergone surgery, police added.
They were identified as Khaled Mohammad Makhamrah, 22, and his cousin Mohamad Ahmad Makhamrah, 21, both from the Hebron area in the occupied West Bank.
Wednesday’s attack in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market caused shock among Israelis [Reuters]
Our correspondent said the revoking of Ramadan permits was likely to cause anger among Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza, as it would be seen as collective punishment.
“The Ramadan permits were issued so that Palestinians could visit their relatives inside Israel, or to pray at al-Aqsa mosque,” she said.
Israel’s army locked down the Palestinian town of Yatta, where the attackers were from, with soldiers patrolling and stopping cars as they entered and exited.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, visited the scene of what he called the “cold-blooded terrorist murder” after returning from a trip to Moscow and conferred with senior colleagues, including Avigdor Lieberman, the newly installed defence minister.
“We discussed a range of offensive and defensive steps which we shall take in order to act against this phenomenon,” Netanyahu’s office quoted the premier as saying.
“There will be intensive action by the police, the army and other security services, not just to catch every accomplice to this murder but also to prevent further incidents.”
A spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs the Gaza Strip and which is also present in the West Bank, called the attack a “heroic operation”.
It is not yet clear if the attackers were acting alone or as part of a larger plot.
Violence since October has killed at least 207 Palestinians, 32 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese.
Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities.
Others were killed in clashes or by Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip.
The violence has steadily declined in recent weeks, although attacks have continued to occur.[Source: Al-Jazeera]