Shin Bet: Tel Aviv Gunman Planned Another Attack

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Videos found on Nashat Melhem's cellphone.

Nashat Melhem, the suspected gunman behind the Tel Aviv attack earlier this month, was planning another attack in a central Israeli city, the Shin Bet said Wednesday.

The information was revealed after charges were filed in the Haifa District Court against three residents of the Arab village of Arara for allegedly abetting Nashat Melhem after his murderous attack on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv on January 1.

Two of the defendants, Amin and Mohammed Melhem, are Nashat Melhem's relatives. Amin Melhem, and a third defendent, Ayoub Rashid, are suspected of attempted conspiracy to aid an enemy during war. In addition, Rashid was charged with weapons offenses and threatening. The two are also suspected of providing Melhem with cash, cigarettes and drugs. Mohammed Melhem allegedly purchased a cellphone for Nashat Melhem.

Videos on Melhem's cellphone, located by officials in Ramat Aviv, show Melhem detailing his hatred for “the enemies of Islam” - Shi'ites, Christians and Jews.

The Shin Bet added that he used terms similar to those used by ISIS. On Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces said they believe the attack was inspired by ISIS. Other content discovered on the phone was used by Melhem to mentally prepare for the attack, according to the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet noted that the investigation revealed that Melhem had planned and carried out the attack alone, without anyone else's involvement or assistance.

According to the indictment, Melhem fled the scene of the attack in Tel Aviv, in which he killed Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi and wounded seven others, and then hailed a cab on the nearby Ibn Gabirol street. He later murdered the taxi driver, Amin Shaaban, whose body was found near north Tel Aviv's Mandarin Hotel.

The Shin Bet said that Melhem then drove the taxi himself to Namir Road, where he abandoned the it near a bus station. Before leaving Tel Aviv, Melhem hung up an ISIS flag, and another flag stating "There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet" on a building in Ramat Aviv, a neighborhood of Tel Aviv. He then traveled to the area of Wadi Ara, where he met with Amin Melhem in a storage room belonging to Amin. 

Nashat allegedly told Amin about the terror attack, the murder of the taxi driver and about his motives, saying he wanted to be a martyr and to atone for past behavior that had offended against Islam. Nashat also reportedly told Amin that he wanted to carry out another terror attack, in Afula, using all the ammunition at his disposal in order to kill as many people as possible. 

Amin reportedly advised Nashat to attack Mahane Shmonim (a large basic training army camp) instead. They did not reach agreement. During Nashat's stay in the storage room, Amin provided him with food and a Koran.

Nashat Melhem was shot dead in a firefight with police in his hometown of Arara in northern Israel three weeks ago. From Melhem's appearance after he was shot down, police deduced that he had accomplices who supplied him with food and clothing. "Melhem didn't look like someone who was in hiding for a week without contact with anyone," sources in the police said.

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