At least four people - three men and one woman - were killed and several others were injured, including one person in serious condition, during what initially appeared to be a robbery gone wrong at a Beersheba bank on Monday.
Later police said an initial investigation found that the gunman was out for revenge after the bank had denied him a loan or a debt arrangement just a few hours before the incident.
The suspect, a 40-year-old Jewish resident of Beersheba, was hold up inside the Hapoalim Bank with one hostage as police unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate with him. An hour into the standoff, the hostage was released and was rushed to the Soroka Medical Center. Shortly thereafter, the shooter killed himself.
Hostage released (Photo: Eliad Levy)
Photo: Eliad Levy
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that "There probably was just one perpetrator, and at this point we're not sure that it was a robbery."
"There is all kinds of speculation in all kinds of directions going around right now. I suppose we will learn the details in the coming hours," he added.
Large forces were called to the scene as shots were fired. The area has been sealed off and rescue forces declared a mass casualty event.
Hapoalim Bank became scene of shootout
Scene of incident (Photo: Israel Police)
Photo: Herzl Yosef
Survivors said the gunman did not demand any money and police are looking into several leads as to his motive.
Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich also said he was not certain the incident was a robbery gone awry.
"This is not a classic case of heist, maybe it's rather the work of a mentally unstable man," said the official, adding the shooting was a tragedy for the city.
An eye witness said that the gunman checked to verify the death of some of the victims. Remo Vaknin recounted: "The robber fired two bullets to each guy that sat next to me. One got two in the back. No one tried to resist. Everyone was lying down. They just fired everyone and did not demand anything. Someone that lay on top of me saved me."
According to eye witnesses, the robber initially shot a security guard and checked he was dead. He then reloaded and continued firing, even after checking the pulse of one victim. Police arrived quickly at the scene, it was reported.
Daniel, who works at an adjacent building described the scene. "I heard several gunshots, I think three or four. It looks like a robbery. We left the office to see what was going on. There are two people lying on the floor in a pool of blood."
Idan, the owner of a nearby café said that businesses on the street were all evacuated.
Brit Perets and Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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