Police: Be’er Sheva Terrorist Was in Contact With Hamas

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Be'er Sheva's Central Bus Station, a day after the shooting attack. October 19, 2015.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The Israeli-Bedouin man who carried out a terror attack in Be’er Sheva last Monday that left two dead had been in contact with Hamas for a long time and prepared for the attack in advance, according to a police investigation.

The probe found that Mohannad al-Okbi, 21, kept photographs of Hamas activists on his phone, along with pictures of different weapons and other material indicating that he planned the attack at the southern city’s central bus station.

The police also alleged Sunday that Okbi’s brother had knowledge of, but did not act to prevent, the crime. The brother, who was not named, knew that Okbi had acquired a gun and also how agitated he had become over the growing tensions regarding Temple Mount in Jerusalem, officers alleged. They added that the brother should have notified the police of Mohannad’s plans.

Israel Defense Forces soldier Sgt. Omri Levy was murdered in the attack, along with Eritrean migrant worker Haftom Zarhum, who was mistaken for a terrorist, shot and viciously beaten by bystanders. Ten others were wounded in the attack.

The police investigation found that Okbi arrived at the station on Monday evening, spotted Levy and began following him. A few minutes later, when Levy headed to the bathroom, Okbi seized his opportunity and shot him from close range with a handgun he had brought along. He then took Levy’s rifle and began firing at the police and security officers who approached. Okbi tried to flee, but was shot to death. A knife allegedly in his possession was found next to his body.

Last Tuesday, Okbi’s family expressed skepticism that their son had come to the bus station to carry out the attack. However, they also condemned the incident. Okbi’s father, Khalil al-Okbi, told Haaretz at the time that he and the rest of the family were stunned by what had happened, and there had been no indication beforehand that Muhannad might do something like this. In a statement to the media, he said the family didn’t know the details of the incident and condemned the attack, but were also sure that “our son was executed on the spot.”

Southern District police chief Maj. Gen. Yoram Halevy said Sunday that evidence from the probe confirmed Okbi was responsible for the attack. “Now the gag order has been lifted, we can say unequivocally – and contrary to the rumor mill and conspiracy theories that have been spreading over the social networks in recent days – that Mohannad al-Okbi was not innocent.

“The extensive evidence collected clearly shows that the terrorist carefully planned his actions over a period of time and was determined to hurt and kill soldier Omri Levy, of blessed memory, and many others,” added Halevy.

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