Who is the calm Tel Aviv killer, and why did he open fire?
As Friday afternoon gave way to Friday evening, the gunman who opened fire in Tel Aviv was still on the loose, and innumerable questions about the attack remained open.
Highly unusually, police were not prepared to say whether the motivation for the attack, in which at least two people were killed, was nationalistic terrorism, or criminal.
They released a security still of the attacker, and said he was armed with a Carl Gustav rifle. But although that kind of weapon is said to be widely available in Judea, Samaria and among Bedouin, they said, this did not conclusively point to the motive for the attack.
Footage from a grocery store showed the gunman calmly buying nuts moments before the attack, taking the murder weapon out of his backpack, stepping out of the store, turning to his left, and opening fire. Officials highlighted the extraordinary calm he appeared to display, in the seconds before he began his killing spree.
Police said a copy of the Koran was found in his backpack afterwards, Channel 2 reported. The TV report noted that security sources were not saying whether this pointed to his motivation, or was intended to mislead.
Extremely strangely, even though police and security forces were searching building by building in central and north Tel Aviv for the gunman, they did not issue orders to Tel Aviv residents to stay indoors. Indeed, two hours after the gunman opened fire into at least three establishments in the Dizengoff Street area, while some streets were still closed off, life continued in other parts of the city.
As darkness fell, there were also reports of another man found with gunshot wounds in Tel Aviv. Police were not able to immediately say whether his injuries were connected to the Dizengoff area shootings.
Commentators noted that Hamas and Hezbollah have both threatened attacks against Israelis in recent days. But they also highlighted a handful of incidents in recent years of shooting attacks that were not Palestinian terrorism.
Security officials said footage of the attacks showed that the gunman could have killed more people if he had chosen to do so. On occasion, he halted his fire in mid-magazine, they noted. Was the gunfire deliberate or indiscriminate, therefore?
Eyewitness were adamant that the man one witness called “the smiling gunman” had fired indiscriminately. But as with many other aspects of the ongoing incident, the police were saying nothing definitive.