JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An American man opened fire in an Israeli seaside hotel packed with tourists on Friday after losing his job there, killing one person before being shot dead in a stand-off with security forces.
The firefight erupted in the popular Red Sea resort of Eilat when New York native William Hershkovitz, 23, attacked a security guard at the Leonardo Club hotel and snatched his gun, officials and witnesses said.
He then shot dead one of the hotel chefs, whom police identified as 33-year-old Armando Abed.
Police and military counter-terrorism officers swiftly surrounded the hotel, and Hershkovitz barricaded himself in the kitchen. After failed negotiations, there was an exchange of fire and Hershkovitz was shot dead, Eilat police spokesman Lior Ben-Simon said.
An Israeli hotel guest, Aviram Sela, said he had tried to wrestle the gunman to the ground before he started shooting, while terrified tourists dived for cover behind a sofa in the hotel lobby.
“We saw him beat the guard and grab his weapon and the magazine,” Sela told Israeli television, adding that the gunman then took aim at a member of Sela’s family.
Hershkovitz had arrived in Israel in August as part of a five-month Israeli government-sponsored program meant to help foreigners become acquainted with the country, said Israel Way, the company that runs the trip.
He and about 80 other participants in the program were working in hotels throughout Eilat.
Hershkovitz on Thursday was told to leave the program after hotel staff had lodged complaints against him.
He “had met all admission requirements and his medical record was clean,” Israel Way said in a statement. The internationally funded Jewish Agency, another of the program’s sponsors, said it had appointed a panel to examine how Hershkovitz had been accepted.
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Ari Rabinovitch; editing by Jane Baird