By Rami Amichay

TEL AVIV (Reuters) -A Palestinian rammed a pickup truck into pedestrians in Tel Aviv and then went on a stabbing rampage, wounding eight people on Tuesday in an attack claimed by the Hamas militant group as retaliation for a major Israeli operation in the West Bank.

At least five people were in serious condition, the two hospitals treating them said. Israeli news website Ynet said one of the casualties was a pregnant woman, but the hospital could not confirm that for privacy reasons, it said.

The 20-year-old Palestinian assailant, from the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was shot dead by an armed civilian, police said. Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said he entered Israel without a permit and had no record of security offences.

The attack in Israel’s commercial capital took place as more than 1,000 Israeli troops were engaged in the second day of an operation against Palestinian militants in the Jenin refugee camp, one of the flashpoints in more than a year of escalating violence in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas, which claimed the attacker as one of its members, said the action was “an act of self-defence in the face of the ongoing Zionist massacre in Jenin”.

CCTV video circulated online showed a pickup truck mounting a pavement and bicycle lane outside a mall at high speed, striking at least two people. The driver is seen exiting through a window, stabbing a cafe-goer and chasing other people with knife in hand.

“I saw the grey pickup pull up at peak speed and ram the bus stop, powerfully. In the first seconds you think it could have been a mistake by the driver,” said Liron Bahash, a sports teacher who was at the scene on a lunch break.

“He exited through the window, not the door, like in a movie, with a knife in hand and started chasing civilians. Now you understand it’s an attack. We ran for our lives,” Bahash told Reuters.

Israel’s far-right police minister Itamar Ben-Gvir came to the scene and repeated his call for citizens to carry weapons in order to thwart street attacks.

“Once Israel began its activity in Jenin, we knew that terrorism will try to rear its head,” he said.

(Writing by Dan Williams and Nidal al-MughrabiEditing by Mark Heinrich and Mark Potter)

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