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Israeli Gunman Opens Fire on Beach; 2 Dead, 2 Wounded

January 31, 1989

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ A man fired into a parked car with a submachine gun Monday, wounding a prostitute and killing her client, and an army officer killed a construction worker he thought was the gunman, police reported.

Police and people at at Tel Baruch, a beach known as a hangout for prostitutes, thought at first the gunman was an Arab, but all those involved were identified as Jews. The beach is about a mile north of Tel Aviv’s resort center.

Authorities said they did not know why the gunman started shooting. They identified him as Pinchas Vaknin, 25, of Ofakim in the Negev Desert, southern Israel.

Yair Yitzhaki, district police commander, said several dozen police officers and soldiers chased Vaknin for miles before a shot hit him in the leg and he surrendered. Police said he fired at his pursuers until he was hit.

He said a construction worker - later identified as Yisrael Lazar, 45, of Beersheba - ″participated in the pursuit, waving a hoe. At this stage, an army officer mistook him for the gunman, fired a single bullet and killed him.″

Yitzhaki, speaking on Israel Television, described the gunman as a ″criminal suspected of many property offenses in the south and in Tel Aviv″ but said the motive for Monday’s attack was not clear.

Police and witnesses said Vaknin wore a khaki uniform and was armed with a British-made Sten submachine gun.

″He still had 300 bullets left,″ Yitzhaki said. ″He also had an ammunition belt, nine knives and other kinds of equipment.″

Vaknin began shooting just before noon at the prostitute and Mordechai Lalo, 30, of Tel Aviv, who was in the car with her and was killed.

Another prostitute said, ″I thought he was a terrorist.″

Witnesses said authorities thought the same in the beginning and brought in about 50 police vehicles, 15 ambulances and an anti-terrorist squad. Soldiers from nearby bases joined the chase and the gunman fled across a grassland with three helicopters circling overhead, they said.

Bianka Lederman, deputy director of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, said Vaknin suffered multiple leg fractures. He said the wounded woman was unconscious and in very serious condition.