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Israeli police kill American gunman in hotel shoot-out

Israeli police killed an American gunman who opened fire in a seaside hotel packed with tourists. NBC's Martin Fletcher reports.

Updated 4:45 p.m. ET: Israeli police have identified an American man believed to have shot to death a chef at a Red Sea resort on Friday, before being killed himself in a shootout with Israeli commandos, as William Hershkovitz, 23, of Poughkeepsie, New York.

Police surrounded the hotel  in the seaside city of Eilat after the man "grabbed a weapon from a security guard and shot a hotel worker," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

The hotel employee who later died was identified as Abed Armando, 33, from an Arab village in northern Israel.

The motive for the attack was still under investigation, according to police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.


Hershkovitz arrived in Israel about two months ago to participate in the Oranim program, which combines Hebrew study, travel and work at the hotel with a university course on hotel management.

Hershkovitz lost his job at the Leonardo Club Hotel in the seaside town of Eilat a few days before the attack, according to Yuval Arad, an Oranim program spokesman. Arad said instructors met with Hershkovitz on Thursday following complaints by the hotel staff.

"It was decided ... that he will leave the project and return on Tuesday to the U.S," Arad said in a statement, without elaborating.

 

An Israeli hotel guest, Aviram Sela, said he tried to wrestle the gunman to the ground before he started shooting, as terrified tourists dived for cover behind a sofa in the hotel lobby.

"We saw him beating the guard and grab his weapon and the magazine," Sela told Israeli television, adding that the gunman then took aim at a member of his family.

The gunman barricaded himself in the hotel kitchen and fired at law enforcement officers.

Authorities said the shooting did not appear to be related to terrorism or to be otherwise politically motivated.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio the incident "appears to be an internal dispute."

Haaretz reported that the Jewish Agency for Israel has appointed a committee to investigate how Hershkovitz was accepted to the work-study program, which is affiliated with the agency.

Natan Sharanksy, chair of the agency, expressed deep sorrow on Friday over the loss of lives, and said that the Eilat shooting was an unusual incident, the Israeli newspaper said.

 

Eliraz Getah / AP

Soldiers secure the area near the site of a shooting incident at a hotel in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, Israel, on Friday.

"He was a normal guy," said Ofer Gutman, head of Oranim, speaking to The Associated Press. "There was nothing that indicated what would happen in the end."

Eilat, on the border with Egypt and Jordan, has been a target of militant attacks in the past and has come under rocket fire from Egypt's Sinai in the past several months. The city is currently crowded with both foreign tourists and Israelis on a seven-day Jewish religious holiday. 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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