Tel Aviv Terrorist Was at Jaffa Great Mosque Before Carrying Out Attack, Defense Officials Believe

Security officials suspect Raad Hazem had received help from a relative before the attack, and arrests are expected to be made among his immediate circle

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    A woman reacts at the scene of a shooting attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday.
    A woman reacts at the scene of a shooting attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday.Credit: Ariel Schalit /AP

The Palestinian terrorist who killed two Israelis in an attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday arrived at the site of the attack after first spending time at the Great Mosque in Jaffa, according to security officials' preliminary assessment.

He then returned to the mosque after the attack and hid there until security forces located and killed him.

At this stage, the members of the Great Mosque are not suspected of knowing his intentions to carry out the attack.

The terrorist, 28-year-old Raad Hazem from the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West bank, was known to Israeli security forces as a hacker. According to the preliminary assessment, Hazem knew the area where he carried out the attack, likely because he had previously lived in Israel illegally. He had been denied an entry permit to work in Israel by the Shin Bet security service.

According to the initial investigation, the terrorist crossed into the country through a breach in the separation barrier in the northern West Bank. He left Jenin at 6 A.M. and a car picked him up and dropped him off at a checkpoint. Another vehicle then drove him to Umm al-Fahm. Security forces are now searching for the driver, but it remains unknown whether he was an accomplice.

The terrorist, the investigation shows, took a bus from Umm al-Fahm to Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station, and from there continued to the Great Mosque in Jaffa during daylight hours on Thursday, before heading north to the scene of the attack.

Security officials suspect that he had received help from a relative before the murders, and thus arrests are expected to be made among those in his immediate circle.

Jenin refugee camp is a weapon-saturated area with many armed groups operating in the vicinity, and thus the security establishment will likely approach it differently than what is customary in other areas of the West Bank. Preparation for security activity in the area will thus be done in a controlled manner.

It is known that the weapon Hazem used was a standard, not improvised, gun, though it unclear how he obtained it. He can be seen limping in footage from before the attack due to a leg injury from a previous shooting incident in Jenin.

Contrary to a statement issued by Islamic Jihad claiming responsibility for the attack, investigators do not believe Hazem led a religious lifestyle, nor is he recognized as being associated with the organization. It thus believed the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack in an attempt to gain credit.

Hazem opened fire at around 9 P.M. at Ilka bar on Dizengoff Street in north Tel Aviv, killing three and wounding another nine before fleeing. An extensive eight-and-a-half-hour manhunt was conducted for him throughout the night, during which police instructed Tel Aviv residents to remain in their homes and lock their doors.

Security sources say that about an hour after the attack, the Shin Bet had information on Hazem's identity, the cause of his leg injury and limp, as well as the clothes he was wearing – though no information on his whereabouts.

The search continued until 5:30 A.M. when Shit Bet officers arrived at the Clock Plaza in Jaffa to access security camera footage after receiving intelligence information that Hazem was in the area. He was found hiding near the mosque and was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the police's special anti-terrorist unit and Shin Ben officers.

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