Middle East

Israel bank shooting leaves four dead

A woman being taken out of a bank in Beersheba, Israel, after a shooting, 20 May 2013
Image caption Police hurried one woman away from the bank in Beersheba

A man has shot four people dead in a bank in southern Israel before turning the gun on himself, police say.

One person was injured, while a woman held hostage for about an hour was freed before the gunman killed himself.

Police initially described the incident as a robbery, but later said the man may have entered the bank with the intention of shooting.

Investigators think he was refused a settlement over a 6,000-shekel (£1,070) overdraft, Israeli media said.

"It appears that we are talking about a lone individual who came to the bank in the morning hours, sought cover for a debt, a loan, and did not get it," said Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.

He told Army Radio that the man found he could not withdraw money from an automatic cash machine, and came back to the Bank Hapoalim branch in Beersheba with a pistol before opening fire.

Witnesses were quoted as saying the gunman had killed a security guard at the bank before shooting three people who were lying on the floor.

"He took a hostage, held her for close to an hour or more," Mr Aharonovitch said. "The moment the police forces burst in, he killed himself - shot himself and committed suicide."

Media reports identified the attacker as a Jewish man in his 40s formerly employed as a paramilitary border guard.

"We are not convinced entirely at this point that we are talking about a robbery or an attempted robbery," said national police chief Yohanan Danino.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the incident as a "great tragedy".

"It is not a common event in Israel," he was quoted as saying. "An attack like this must not [be allowed] to recur."