At least 3 dead, more wounded in a stabbing attack near Tel Aviv

An attacker went on a stabbing rampage in a town near Tel Aviv on Thursday night, killing at least three people and wounding four others before fleeing in a vehicle, Israeli authorities said.

Police said they suspected it was a Palestinian militant attack and launched a massive search for the assailant, setting up roadblocks and dispatching a helicopter.

The stabbing, coming on Israel’s Independence Day, was the latest in a string of deadly attacks in Israeli cities in recent weeks.

The identity of the assailant was not yet known. But Israeli-Palestinian tensions have soared in recent weeks, with attacks in Israel, military operations in the occupied West Bank and violence at a sensitive holy site in Jerusalem. The site, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, was the scene of a new unrest earlier Thursday.

Emergency respondents are seen in the aftermath of the attack which left at least three people dead. (Ammar Awad / Reuters)

Alon Rizkan, a medic with Israel’s Magen David Adom rescue service, described a “very difficult call” when he arrived at the scene in Elad, an ultra-Orthodox town near Tel Aviv. He said he identified three dead people at various locations and four others who were wounded, two seriously.

Police called on the public to avoid the area, and urged people to report suspicious vehicles or people to them.

Israel’s Independence Day is a national holiday in which people typically hold barbecues and attend air shows.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, praised the attack and linked it to violence at the Jerusalem holy site.

“The storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque can’t go unpunished,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said. “The heroic operation in Tel Aviv is a practical translation of what the resistance had warned against.”