Police: Beersheba attacker was in contact with Hamas, planned attack well in advance

Uqbi's phone was found to contain pictures of Hamas operatives, weapons and other materials.

Blood at the scene where terrorist was shot at the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015 (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Blood at the scene where terrorist was shot at the Beersheba central bus station on October 18, 2015
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Muhand al-Uqbi was in contact with Hamas and planned last week’s deadly attack on the Beersheba central bus station well in advance, Negev police said Sunday.
Despite the police statement, intelligence officials said they knew of no contact with Hamas or orchestration by Hamas of the attack.
Scene of terror attack in Beersheba
According to police, investigators working the case discovered that before the attack – during which the Israeli Beduin, a 21-yearold native of Hura, shot and killed IDF soldier Omri Levi and wounded several other Israelis – al-Uqbi had been in contact with Hamas for a long period of time and that he had pictures of Hamas members, weapons and other material on his phone, according to police.
The information came to light in a statement released by the Negev police on Sunday as they presented a pre-indictment motion against al-Uqbi’s brother, who will be charged with failing to prevent a crime, after investigators determined that he knew his brother had acquired a pistol and was “going through a process of radicalization due to the events on the Temple Mount and did not report it.”
The statement also revealed a series of details about the attack that until then had been under a gag order.
According to police, last Sunday at 7:24 p.m., al-Uqbi – armed with a handgun – slipped into the bus station by way of an entryway next to the McDonald’s. Moments later, Levi passed through the same entrance and al-Uqbi began to follow him in order to kill him and steal his assault rifle.
Police said al-Uqbi then followed Levi into a bathroom, pulled out his pistol and shot the soldier dead at pointblank range before stealing his rifle.
He then opened fire at a group of police officers who heard the gunshot and were on their way to the bathroom and fled toward dumpsters behind the station where he was shot by YASSAM special patrol officers.
Police added that a knife was found next to his body but that it was not used in the attack.
At the same time, as pandemonium gripped the station, there were reports that a second attacker was still on the loose and a security guard named Ziad shot Eritrean asylum seeker Haptom Zarhum, 29, mortally wounding him.
While lying incapacitated on the floor, Zarhum was set upon by a mob that mistook him for a terrorist and beat him mercilessly. He died later that night from his wounds, Police, days later, said an autopsy revealed the death was caused by the shooting.
Four suspects in the beating of Zarhum have since been arrested, including two Israel Prison Service employees.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.