Suspect in Deadly Tel Aviv Shooting Has Violent Past

The Israeli Arab suspect had served time in prison for trying to snatch a soldier's weapon.

The suspected assailant in the Tel Aviv shooting in a 2007 photo.
The suspected assailant in the Tel Aviv shooting in a 2007 photo. Itzik Ben-Malki

The suspect in the shooting that killed two people and wounded seven in a bar in central Tel Aviv on Friday had served time in prison for trying to snatch a soldier's weapon. 

A massive manhunt is underway for the assailant who fired a submachine gun toward patrons at the Simta pub and nearby businesses on Dizengoff Street. 

Two people wounded in the Tel Aviv shooting are in serious condition, while five others sustained light wounds. The victims who have died have been identified as Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 30.

The suspect, a 29-year-old Israeli Arab from the Wadi Ara area in northern Israel, had stolen the gun from his father, who works in security. The father had recognized the suspect from media reports and reached out to the police.  

Residents of Arara, the northern Israeli village where the suspect lives, report that major police forces are searching the area.  

Shooting at Tel Aviv bar.

A relative of the suspect told Haaretz that this isn't his first violent incident. In recent years his family would occasionally call the police due to his aggression.  

"We know he was being treated for mental [issues]," the relative said. "We haven't heard much about him recently. He wasn't married and we always suspected he was unstable."

A decade ago, the suspect's cousin was killed by Border Police officers during a home search. Subsequently, the suspect struggled with depression, according to his family.

In 2007, the suspect attacked a soldier with a screwdriver, lightly wounding him. During his interrogation, he said that he wanted to avenge his cousin's death.

He said he picked a soldier who appeared skinny, which would make it easier for him to snatch his weapon. He was planning to shoot the soldier and then sell the weapon. He was convicted and served a five-year sentence. 

Gunman captured on video moments before shooting.

Another relative said the suspect was not religious and was not affiliated with any political movement. 

"He is insane," he said, expressing hope that the suspect will turn himself in, as well as voicing concern he might hurt himself. 

The principal at the local school described the suspect's family as a "stable, typical and normative Israeli Arab family." The father volunteers in a community watch, the relative said. 

According to the relative, the village council is set to convene tomorrow to condemn the shooting. 

Several young residents of the village who are acquainted with the suspect stressed that he wasn't part of an organization, and that he was known as problematic.