On the morning of August 2, 2017, 19-year-old Ismail Abu Aram left his home in the West Bank town of Yatta with the determined intention of killing a Jew and carrying out what he saw as the religious obligation of jihad, waging a holy war.
With no permit to enter Israel from the West Bank, he managed to evade the scrutiny of security authorities at Halul-Hebron checkpoint and, using public transportation, made his way to the southern Israeli city of Yavneh. There he hoped to find his designated victim, a former employer, whom he planned to kill using a knife he would steal from a nearby supermarket and a can of pepper spray he had brought with him.
But unable to find the intended victim when he arrived in Yavneh, Abu Aram changed plans and decided to attack one of the people in the “Super Deal” supermarket branch where he had gone to find a knife. After taking a six-inch blade from the kitchen supplies section of the store and hiding it in his pants, he browsed the aisles searching for a Jewish target.
He soon came upon Niv Nehemiah, a deputy manager at the store, stocking shelves in an otherwise empty section of the food market.
Abu Aram took the knife from his pants and began repeatedly stabbing Nehemiah in the upper body. Though injured, sustaining multiple stab wounds to the chest, neck and head, Nehemiah fought off his attacker using anything he could find from the shelves and ran, blocking the aisle after him with a handcart, his assailant hot in pursuit.
WARNING: Graphic content.
Abu Aram then took out his pepper spray and tried to emptying it in Nehemiah’s face in a final act of malice before fleeing the shop. He was chased and tackled to the floor by people who had heard the commotion and was held by them until security forces arrived and arrested him.
This account, presented by Israel’s state prosecution in a Monday indictment against Abu Aram, helped build the case to charge him for “attempted murder as an act of terrorism.” Police said the report of the events was based on testimony given by Abu Aram, who admitted to carrying out the attack and “claimed that he came to stab Jews in order to carry out the commandment of jihad.”
According to the full indictment, filed with the Lod District Court, Abu Aram “planned every detail of each stage of the terror attack with an extreme determination to prevent failure.” Citing his intention to find a Jewish target, the calculated nature of the events prior to the stabbing and the use of pepper spray as a final attempt to kill his victim, the prosecution described the onslaught as “premeditated nationalist-racist attack.”
The indictment describes how Abu Aram “became religiously radicalized and was influenced to carry out ‘jihad against the Jewish-Israeli occupation.'” Earlier this year, as part of his increased religious observance, Abu Aram traveled to Saudi Arabia during Ramadan for the traditional Umrah Islamic pilgrimage, the prosecution said.
The Shin Bet Security Agency said Abu Aram had no previous convictions and was not suspected of terror-related activity.
In the past two years of increased violence in the West Bank and Israel, several Palestinian terrorists have come from Abu Aram’s town of Yatta, notably the two gunmen who carried out the Tel Aviv Sarona Market terror attack in June 2016, in which four people were killed and over a dozen wounded.
On Sunday, Nehemiah was released from the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, where he had been recovering from serious injuries.
Nehemiah was taken to hospital after the attack in critical condition. After an hours-long operation to stop the bleeding and repair the damage caused by Abu Aram’s attack, his condition stabilized but remained serious.
He remained unconscious for four days and has undergone numerous surgeries over the past month on his path to recovery.
“I want to thank God for giving me the strength to get through this,” Nehemiah told Channel 2 News Sunday in a whisper, his vocal cords having been slashed during the attack. “I still have a long way to go, but if I have made it this far, I can keep going.”