Jerusalem: Israel on Thursday suspended entry permits granted during Ramadan for 83,000 Palestinians, following a major terror attack at an upscale market in Tel Aviv, the deadliest in the recent spate of violence that killed four Israelis and injured 16 others.
The decision to suspend the entry permits, most of them for Palestinians to visit their family in Israel, was taken overnight during a meeting of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot soon after the attack.
Permits for Gaza residents to pray at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, described by Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) that houses the al-Aqsa mosque, have also been suspended.
Netanyahu, who visited the scene of the terror attack late last night, called the attack "a savage crime of murder and terrorism" and convened a meeting of the security-diplomatic cabinet at the defence headquarters to discuss possible further steps in response to the terror attack.
"There was a very difficult event here, of cold-blooded murder by heinous terrorists," the Israeli prime minister said adding, "We held a discussion on a string of offensive and defensive measures that we will take to act against this phenomenon, the grave phenomenon of shooting. It is definitely challenging us and we will respond to it."
"There will be firm action by other security elements, not only to locate anyone who cooperated with this murder, but also to prevent further actions. We will act firmly and intelligently," he stressed.
Maj Gen Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories ordered overnight to also suspend 204 entry permits given to the families of the perpetrators of yesterday's terror attack.
According to Palestinian reports, the IDF surrounded the South Hebron Hills town of Yatta, the hometown of the assailants, and has declared the area a closed military zone.
The military is expected to carry out arrests and interrogate the perpetrators' families.
The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) in a statement early today said the culprits behind last night's shooting attack in Tel Aviv's Sarona complex acted individually, despite belonging to its student group.
The PLO said the youths' actions were a "natural response" to the "violations of an Israeli occupation".
"Israel announces at every given opportunity its opposition to a peace process, and chooses instead the force of its army," the statement said, stressing, "Israel must cease the occupation of Palestinian land".
Rival Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
There has been a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis since last year, with a series of shootings, stabbings and car rammings, although the number of incidents had dropped in recent months.
Yesterday's attacks took place in two locations in Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv, close to Israel's defence ministry and main army headquarters.
Tel Aviv Police Chief, Moshe Edri, called the shooting a "serious terrorist attack", saying that two terrorists came to the market and opened fire randomly at civilians.
Eyewitnesses told the local media that the terrorists were disguised as religious Jews and wore Kippot (Jewish skullcaps), but it could not be independently verified.
One of the two Palestinian shooters died in the offensive launched by security forces while the second one is being treated in a Tel Aviv hospital in critical condition.