Officials at the Institute of Forensic Medicine have reportedly completed an initial autopsy of the body of the suspected attacker in Friday night’s car-ramming incident in Tel Aviv that killed an Italian tourist, with preliminary findings strengthening suspicions it was a terror attack.
Medical officials have ruled out that Yousef Abu Jaber, 45, an Israeli citizen and resident of Kafr Qassem, and a father of six, suffered a stroke, Channel 12 reported late Sunday. Further testing will investigate the possibility Abu Jaber was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or that he suffered another medical condition at the time of the incident.
Members of Abu Jaber’s family have insisted the incident must have been a car accident, possibly following a heart attack. However, police sources confirmed that the incident was indeed a terror attack, and not a traffic accident, the Haaretz daily said Sunday.
A spokesperson for the Shin Bet security agency, which is leading the investigation, had earlier told The Times of Israel that the car-ramming was being investigated as a terror attack.
A senior official with the Tel Aviv District Police told Channel 12 Sunday night that authorities “were under the impression from the beginning that it was a terror attack, and the more we delve into the investigation, the more [we come to the fact] that it was an attack with a nationalistic motive.”
Abu Jaber had no known prior security offenses.
On Friday night, according to law enforcement officials, Abu Jaber rammed his car at high speed into a group of people on Kaufmann Street, leaving a trail of carnage along several hundred meters and into the adjacent Charles Clore Park, a popular seaside promenade. The attack killed Alessandro Parini, a 35-year-old lawyer from Rome, and injured seven others, also tourists.
Abu Jaber’s vehicle then overturned and a police officer and municipal inspectors who were near the scene approached and opened fire on Abu Jaber, killing him. Police had claimed they saw Abu Jaber, “reach [for] a rifle-like object that was with him” before shooting.
Law enforcement sources later told Hebrew-language media that the object was a toy gun. However, they have not distributed any images of the purported replica weapon.
Until a year ago, Abu Jaber worked as a janitor at a middle school in Kiryat Ono. Students and teachers informed police that they recognized Abu Jaber from his photos, remembering him as the janitor they had laughed and danced with during his time at the school.
The alleged attacker’s brother, Omar Abu Jaber, has said that the incident was a car accident, and not an attack, before accusing police of unnecessarily killing Abu Jaber after the car overturned.
“We saw how he was shot with a burst of bullets while lying on the floor,” he said. “They could have subdued him without killing him — logic says that three armed men could have stopped him alive.”
Abu Jaber’s brother told Haaretz that police on the scene acted as “judge, jury and executioner,” and called on police to release bodycam video.
Earlier Sunday, the Institute of Forensic Medicine determined that Parini was not found to have sustained any gunshot wounds, amid initial suspicions that Abu Jaber had driven over Parini before proceeding to shoot him.
The Magen David Adom ambulance service also initially indicated that the victim had suffered gunshot wounds, before retracting the statement. The only person shot at the scene of the attack was Abu Jaber, according to medics and police.
Earlier reports in the Italian media claimed a bullet had been found during a CT scan of Parini’s body, but the Institute of Forensic Medicine ruled out the possibility, confirming that the force of the impact had killed the tourist.
Friday night’s car-ramming came amid a spate of terror attacks and a surge in violence. It was the second deadly incident of the day, after a shooting in the West Bank Friday morning killed two sisters and left their mother fighting for her life. The uptick in violence has come as tensions have spiked in recent days following Israeli police incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to quell rioting; on Thursday, Hamas terrorists fired volleys of rockets at Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, authorities said.
Emanuel Fabian and Ash Obel contributed to this report