Some 250 Israeli Vigilantes Participated in Chase for Tel Aviv Terrorist

The report on the incident finds that dozens of armed individuals joined the official security forces in their effort to locate the assailant, without being subject to the chain of command

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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The scene of the attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv last month, where armed citizens joined security forced on their own accord in the search for the terrorist.
The scene of the attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv last month, where armed citizens joined security forced on their own accord in the search for the terrorist. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Some 250 police officers, soldiers, Shin Bet security service personnel and private individuals with firearm licenses arrived of their own accord at the scene of April’s terror attack in Tel Aviv to join in the search for the terrorist, according to the incident report findings obtained by Haaretz.

The report warned that the presence of so many armed individuals acting on their own might have inadvertently led to bystanders being harmed or friendly-fire incidents.

The findings, which have been presented to Public Security Ministry officials, estimated that more than 1,000 security forces personnel operated on the streets of Tel Aviv on the night of the attack April 7 under an orderly chain of command, including members of the Matkal, Shaldag and Shayetet 13 commando units. The special forces had been dispatched out of concern that the terrorist might take hostages.

A map of the attacker's path.

But they were joined by scores of armed individuals who sought to help in locating the terrorist. According to the investigation, the volunteers roamed the streets with their weapons drawn and cocked, moving from one place to another based on rumors circulating on social media and by word of mouth. At times, the volunteers even attached themselves to organized security teams but without being subject to the commander. This created situations that might have led to security forces firing on each other accidentally.

“The police and troops who arrived on the scene were acting according to orders, as opposed to other forces – some of them IDF soldiers – who operated at times on their own recognizance,” said a source familiar with the events of that night.
As a result, the Public Security Ministry, the police and Israel Defense Forces are holding discussions on how to ensure the orderly utilization of security forces arriving spontaneously at the scene of a terror attack in an urban center.

A month-a-half after the attack, the police and Shin Bet can now trace with certainty the sequences of events before and after Raad Hazem opened fire at the Ilka pub, murdering three and injuring nine.

According to the investigation, on the morning of the attack Hazem, a 29 year-old from the Jenin refugee camp, crossed the separation barrier through a gap near the city of Umm al-Fahm. From there, he took buses through Kafr Qasem before he was first being picked up by security cameras at the Clock Square in Jaffa around 9:00 A.M.

There is no evidence that he entered a nearby mosque, but he is believed to have prayed there, as he was seen walking toward it.
Investigators believe that about two hours before the attack, Hazem went by foot to Dizengoff Street, and roamed about there for a few minutes before deciding to carry out the attack. After the shooting, he made his way back to Jaffa through Tel Aviv back streets. Some 40 minutes after the attack, he was observed on security cameras at the Clock Square walking toward the mosque, after which there is no further evidence of his movements on the day of the attack. The next day, around 5:30 in the morning, Hazem was located by two Shin Bet operatives in a parking lot near the square and was killed in a shootout.

The investigation also found that Hazem had no previous record with the authorities, including the Shin Bet, save for the fact that he once suffered a gunshot wound to the leg in a fight in Jenin. Those who were monitoring Hazem’s activity were U.S. federal law enforcement authorities in connection with suspicions of his involvement in the hacking of U.S. computers. According to a source familiar with the investigation, the Americans had asked Israel to warn Hazem about continuing his alleged hacking activities.

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