Homeless man mistaken for terrorist puts north Tel Aviv on war footing

Police advise public to return to their routines.

March 15, 2016 12:53
2 minute read.
sandstorm dust

A man rides a bicycle during a sandstorm in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A report of a suspected stabbing attack on an IDF soldier spurred a manhunt across north Tel Aviv Tuesday afternoon before it was determined there was no terrorist attack and that the so-called assailant was most likely a homeless man who had an altercation with the soldier.

Following the deadly stabbing attack on the Jaffa beachfront less than a week ago, however, the report was enough to put police and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) in emergency-response mode with mounted officers and detectives combing Hayarkon Park while a helicopter circled overhead. Further north, police on scooters sped through neighborhoods such as Ramat Aviv and several undercover security officers with assault rifles patrolled outside the entrance to Sde Dov airport.

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The first report of the alleged stabbing came in around 12:30 p.m., with police stating they received a call that a soldier was attacked at a bus stop outside Sde Dov air force base in north Tel Aviv by a man who drove up to the bus stop and pulled a knife on the soldier when he approached the vehicle. According to the initial report, the soldier fled on foot and was not harmed, while the alleged assailant drove off, launching a manhunt.

Within a half hour or so, however, police were able to determine that there was no vehicle, and that the incident happened several blocks away at a bus stop on the eastbound side of Rokach Blvd. near the corner of Ibn Gvirol.

Initially, there was some suspicion that the Air Force soldier made up the story for unknown reasons, and he could be seen being questioned by a Shin Bet officer and plainclothes police officer in Hayarkon Park next to a paddle boots rental stand.

Barely two hours after the initial report, Tel Aviv police put out a statement saying they had checked surveillance camera footage from the area and determined that the incident was not a terrorist attack, and that the assailant most likely was a homeless man.

Police were still investigating the incident, the statement said. No arrests have been made, it added.

Last Tuesday, 22-year-old Bashar Masalha from Kalkilya stabbed and killed American tourist Taylor Force on the Jaffa promenade and wounded more than 10 other people before he was shot and killed by a volunteer police officer.

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