Suspects Behind Tel Aviv Attack Indicted for Murdering Four Israelis

Palestinian trio planned to attack train as revenge for Duma arson, but changed plans after seeing metal detectors at station entrance.

Israel Police and forensics experts at the scene of the attack at the Sarona marketplace complex in Tel Aviv, June 9, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Tel Aviv District Prosecutor’s Office filed an indictment Monday against the perpetrators of last month’s terrorist attack in the city’s Sarona Market complex. Khaled Mahamra, Mohammed Mahamra and Yunis Zayn, all in their 20s, from the West Bank town of Yatta, near Hebron, are accused of conspiracy to commit a crime, murdering Israeli citizens Ido Ben Ari, Ilana Naba, Mila Mishayev and Michael Feige, and 41 counts of attempted murder.

According to the indictment submitted to the Tel Aviv District Court by attorney Tamar Anis, Khaled and Mohammed are cousins, and Yunis is their neighbor and friend. In July 2015, after the fatal arson in the home of the Dawabsheh family in the West Bank village of Duma, Khaled decided to carry out an attack against Israeli civilians, and spoke about the idea to Mohammed. The two suggested to Yunis that he join them, and he agreed.

The accused planned to carry out the attack on Israel Railways, by firing at passengers who would be trapped in the cars and unable to escape. For that purpose, in the period preceding the planned attack Khaled collected information about train schedules, pictures of the train itself, the routes, the location of ticket counters, station entrances and exits and the number of passengers on the various trains.

After gathering the information, the accused decided that they would carry out the attack on the Tel Aviv to Haifa train. In February 2016, in order to disguise themselves as Israeli businessmen, Khaled and Mohammad bought formal suits, watches, leather briefcases, shoes and glasses, and two 30-centimeter knives and rat poison in which they planned to immerse the knives. Meanwhile, Yunis obtained three firearms and ammunition.

Shortly before the attack, Khaled and Mohammed decided to prevent Yunis from participating, because he is in debt and therefore cannot be a shahid (martyr) according to Muslim belief.

In June the three men had their pictures taken in Yunis’ home on the backdrop of the Islamic State (ISIS) flag, with the inscription: “There is no God but Him and Mohammed is God’s messenger,” with the intention that these pictures would be published in the media, including on Facebook, after the attack.

Two days later Khaled and Mohammed had their hair cut, went to Yunis’s house and took all the equipment they had purchased. They were taken by a driver to Segev Shalom, a Bedouin town southeast of Be’er Sheva, where they boarded Bus no. 53 and disembarked at the entrance to the Central Bus Station in Be’er Sheva. When they arrived at the nearby Be’er Sheva railway station they discovered that there are meticulous security checks at the entrance, including metal detectors, and therefore changed their original plan.

At about 8 P.M. they decided to take a taxi to Tel Aviv. At about 9 P.M. they arrived in Tel Aviv and got out near the Hashalom railway station, which is near the Azrieli Center shopping mall. Upon their arrival, they looked for a crowded place in which to carry out the attack. They asked passersby where there were restaurants or cafes, and after receiving the information began walking toward Sarona.

At Sarona they sat down in the Max Brenner restaurant, and when they saw that the place was crowded they started firing in all directions. During the course of the shooting, after they had hit several people, their weapons jammed. At that point the two fled in different directions, until they were caught by security forces. As a result of the attack four people were murdered and 41 were wounded, four of them seriously.

The State Prosecutor’s Office has asked to extend their detention until the conclusion of legal proceedings against them.