5 dead in 'bank robbery' mystery in Israel

5 dead in bank robbery? A gunmen shot four people in a bank, took a hostage, and then killed himself. Early reports said it was a bank robbery, but Israeli police are not so sure.

REUTERS/Amir Cohen
An Israeli police forensics expert is seen through the glass doors of a Bank Hapoalim branch after a shooting at the bank in the southern city of Beersheba May 20, 2013.

 A gunman stormed into a bank in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba Monday, killing four people in a gunfight and taking a hostage before killing himself, police said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the shootings happened inside the bank, which was cordoned off with a large number of police. Israeli TV footage showed several ambulances parked outside. Four other people were wounded, one of them seriously.

Police said they were investigating the incident and backed off from initial claims that it had been a bungled bank robbery.

"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.

The man was identified as an Israeli in his 40s who lived in Beersheba.

The bank specialized in mortgages, and Rosenfeld said police were exploring whether the man had experienced financial difficulties or had any other personal dispute with bank workers. He said robbery also remained a possible motive.

Rosenfeld said a gunfight broke out and the robber took one hostage, but as a standoff developed, he killed himself. The hostage, who was lightly wounded, walked out of the bank, Rosenfeld added.

He said police looked into the possibility that there had been a second suspect, but ruled that out. He also said police believed all of the dead had been killed by the gunman.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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