Police: Terrorist in Ra’anana attack initially tried to target IDF’s Arabic spokesman

One of the perpetrators of deadly ramming spree last month first sought to attack well-known figure Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee after spotting him at restaurant, officials say

Avichay Adraee, the IDF's Arabic-language spokesman. (Courtesy)
Avichay Adraee, the IDF's Arabic-language spokesman. (Courtesy)

One of the two Palestinian terrorists who carried out a deadly car-ramming spree in the central city of Ra’anana last month initially sought to target a senior officer in the IDF Spokesperson Unit, police said Wednesday.

Police said that their investigation into the January 15 attack revealed that months before the attack, one of the perpetrators, both of whom were working in Ra’anana illegally, spotted an IDF official sitting at a restaurant. The senior officer was identified as Lt. Col. Avichay Adraee, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman, who is well known in the Arab world, often appearing in Arabic-language press to lay out Israeli positions and defend Israeli military actions.

Ahmed Zidat, 25, considered trying to attack Adraee then and there, but was unarmed. He returned to the restaurant armed with a knife in the following days and weeks and would walk around the neighborhood searching for Adraee, but did not see him again.

The two terrorists who perpetrated the ramming attack were identified as Ahmed Zidat and Mahmoud Zidat, 44, both residents of the southern West Bank town of Bani Naim who, according to the Shin Bet, had been previously blacklisted for entering Israel illegally numerous times.

During the attack, the two seized three vehicles and rammed pedestrians in several locations in the city, killing an elderly woman and wounding at least 17 others.

According to the findings of the investigation, the two perpetrators worked at a car wash in Ra’anana, and it was from there that they stole two vehicles used in the attack.

The first terrorist ran over a pedestrian with one stolen car before abandoning it and stealing the car of a woman who had been attempting to escape him, police said of the investigation’s findings. The terrorist rammed into several more people as he made his escape to a hiding place near his workplace, where he was eventually caught and arrested.

At the same time, the second terrorist ran over a group of citizens at a bus stop and killed one of them — 79-year-old Edna Bluestein — before attempting to flee the scene, police said.

Israeli police forensics personnel inspect the area around a damaged car following a terrorist ramming attack in the central town of Ra’anana, on January 15, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The pair were arrested following the attack and indictments are expected to be filed against them in the coming days.

Hebrew media reports indicated one of the suspects told the Shin Bet that when the war in Gaza started, they “decided to carry out an attack and become martyrs… Initially, we intended to stab Jews, but then we decided to run over as many Jews as possible.”

The war with Hamas began on October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists massacred some 1,200 people and seized 253 hostages amid scenes of horrific brutality across southern Israel.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has said that since the start of the war, more than 29,200 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave, though these figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF says it has killed over 12,000 terror operatives in Gaza, in addition to some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

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