Security officials reportedly believe the Palestinian terrorist who carried out the deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday night set out from the mosque in Jaffa where he was killed hours later in a firefight.
Ra’ad Hazem, a 28-year-old resident of the Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, prayed at the mosque on Yefet Street before going on his deadly rampage in Tel Aviv, Haaretz reported on Friday.
No one in the mosque is suspected of having known of Hazem’s intentions, the report said.
Hazem killed two people and wounded over 10 others when he opened fire on a Tel Aviv bar. Hundreds of security forces launched an all-night manhunt through the streets of Tel Aviv to search for the shooter.
Hazem returned to the area of the mosque, some 3.5 miles away, after the attack. He was located hours later, hiding near the house of worship and was killed in an exchange of fire with officers from the Yamam police counter-terrorism unit and Shin Bet internal security service.
There were no Israeli casualties in the gun battle.
The Shin Bet had in the past declined to grant Hazem an entry permit, but he had a thorough knowledge of Tel Aviv and the adjoining Arab-majority Jaffa after entering Israel illegally on a number of previous occasions, reports said.
Senior security officials told the Walla news site that Hazem had crossed into Israel through a hole in the security barrier near Jenin, even though the military recently fortified the fence in that area.
The officials said he had likely intended to carry out further attacks, and did not plan on returning to Jenin.
Police and the Shin Bet are combing through security footage and collecting other evidence to retrace Hazem’s route to Tel Aviv.
The Kan public broadcaster said Hazem may have received assistance from a family member in the attack. His father praised the killings on Friday.
Police officials said he used a standard service pistol, but how he acquired the firearm remained unclear.
Hazem suffered from a limp, which could be seen in security camera footage in the moments before the attack. He was shot in the leg during an incident in the West Bank several years ago, but the reason, nature and Hazem’s role in the incident remained unclear.
The Shin Bet said earlier Friday that he had “no clear organizational affiliation, no security background and no previous arrests,” but security officials had previously known Hazem as being a hacker, reports said.
According to Hebrew media reports, two officers drove to the Jaffa mosque to search the area hours after the attack.
Once they arrived, they found a suspicious-looking individual who matched Hazem’s description. Two of the officers got out of the car and ordered him to surrender.
After initially raising his hands, Hazem then ran behind a vehicle, drew a gun and fired 10 bullets at the officers, who fired back and killed him, Hebrew media reports said.
His father, Fathi Hazem, is a former security prisoner who previously served as an officer in the Palestinian Authority’s security services in Jenin.
Fathi praised his son’s actions to a crowd gathered in front of the family home on Friday morning.
“Your eyes will see the victory soon. You will see change. You will achieve your freedom… God, liberate the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the desecration of the occupiers,” Fathi said, according to footage from the scene.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett praised security forces for finding and neutralizing the assailant.
“We maintain maximum alertness, within Tel Aviv and throughout the country, for fear of further incidents or attacks,” he said.
“The entire nation of Israel mourns the grief of the families of those killed and prays for the health of the wounded. Our war on murderous terrorism is long and hard. We will win.”