Jodi Rudoren
The New York Times
October 5, 2012 - 12:00am

JERUSALEM — A New York man opened fire in the dining room of a hotel in the southern Israeli resort of Eilat on Friday and killed a kitchen worker before being shot dead by police officers, the authorities said. The gunman, William Hershkovitz, was born in 1989, and had just been fired after working at the hotel for a couple of weeks through Oranim, a company that provides tourists with internships in the industry, a company official told The Associated Press.

Eitan Gedasi, deputy police commander of Eilat, told Israel Radio that a call came in about a shooting at the hotel, the Leonardo Club, around 9 a.m. after the man grabbed a pistol from a hotel security guard.

“The man surprised the security guard and threw him on the ground,” Mr. Gedasi said. “A civilian  who saw this tried to help, but the man managed to get away with the weapon towards the kitchen.”

Ofer Gutman, head of the Oranim program, told The A.P. that the man had been fired from the hotel on Tuesday and was waiting to be reassigned to another workplace; he did not give a reason for the firing. Mr. Gutman said the attacker had arrived in Israel about two months ago. Hotel officials declined to be interviewed.

“He was a normal guy,” Mr. Gutman was quoted as saying. “There was nothing that indicated what would happen in the end.”

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said the man, who was not identified pending notification of his family, fired several shots in the dining area before storming into the kitchen, where he killed a cook, who also was not identified by the authorities. The shots fired in the dining room did not strike anyone, they said.

The gunman then “barricaded himself in the kitchen,” raising police fears of a hostage situation. About 10:15 a.m., antiterror units from the Israeli Defense Forces “moved in on the suspect, and he opened fire again,” Mr. Rosenfeld said.

It turned out that no hostages had been taken, Mr. Rosenfeld said, making it seem more like a workplace dispute than a terrorist attack, but the circumstances were still being investigated. Two women were treated for shock afterward, he added.

The police officials said the man was from New York State and was in Israel as part of a program offered by Oranim, an educational tourism provider sponsored in part by the Jewish Agency for Israel. Under the program, people ages 20 to 35 live and work in Eilat hotels for five months while taking a university course in hospitality.

The shooting occurred during the holiday of Sukkot, when Israeli schools and many offices are closed. It is one of the busiest weeks of the year in Eilat, and the 282-room Leonardo Club, which caters to families with all-inclusive packages and a water park, was fully booked.

Guests at the hotel told Israeli radio and television stations that after the assailant argued with a security guard in the lobby and took his weapon, they hid behind a sofa. One guest, Aviram Sela, said he tried to wrestle the man to the ground before he started firing.

Another, Meil Gilad, told Israel Radio: “I saw a crowd of people and security guards yelling, ‘There is a shooter!’. Suddenly I saw a man with a baseball hat run towards the kitchen, and then I heard one shot fired.”

Hotel workers and the police told guests to return to their rooms and lock the doors. Once told that it was safe to come out, people emerged “happy, clapping,” another guest, Michal Bouaron, told Israel’s Channel 2.

“We won’t let this ruin our day and our vacation,” she added.


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