A potential bank robbery gone wrong has left five people dead in Israel after police stormed the bank in an effort to free hostages Monday afternoon.
Two possible bank robbers tried to hold up the Bank Hapoalim in Beersheba on Monday around lunchtime when they were encountered by police, Reuters reported. Eyewitnesses said they heard gunfire, and the incident resulted in the lockdown of an adjacent school.
Israeli authorities initially said the incident was a bank robbery but then backtracked, saying the investigation into the incident was still ongoing. There were also conflicting media reports about the number of suspects.
"We are not convinced entirely at this point that we are talking about a robbery or an attempted robbery, but it could be we are talking about an incident where from the start, the murderer came in with an intention to shoot," National Police Chief Yohanan Danino told reporters, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
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The bank specializes in mortgages, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the investigation will look into whether financial difficulties or a personal dispute led to the incident at the bank.
One of the suspects was taken into custody, but the second stayed inside the Bank Hapoalim branch with a female hostage before killing himself. The hostage was unharmed, according to Reuters.
Five people were dead after the shooting, according to local Israeli police. The dead included three Bank Hapoalim employees and a customer; three others were injured during the incident, according to witnesses.
"Four people have been killed, and the robber apparently shot himself dead. The scene is now clear," Regional Police Commander Yoram Levy told Israel Radio after the raid, Reuters reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was informed of the bank incident, according to the Daily Mail.
The British tabloid noted that violent bank robberies are rare occurrences in Israel. The last similar situation unfolded in 2001, when a robber killed a security guard at a bank in central Israel.