TEL AVIV – Friday’s shooting attack in Tel Aviv has fascinated Gaza’s Salafi jihadists, with one top Islamic State-aligned militant rejoicing at the possibility that the perpetrator was inspired by IS ideology.
“We hope it will emerge that the brother who carried out the operation will turn out to be a fighter for IS, or at least inspired by it, like the American couple [who carried out last month’s shooting in San Bernardino, California],” Abu al-Ayna Al-Ansari, a jihadi leader in Gaza affiliated with IS ideology, told Breitbart Jerusalem.
Ansari argued that it is likely the case, because the attack came a few days after IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi issued a warning, in which he told Israelis to “prepare to hear the roars of the mujahideen.”
“We are looking forward to seeing whether occupied Palestine will have the same fate as France and the United States, that were struck only a few days after the State’s spokesperson, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, warned the infidels there,” Ansari said.
The Tel Aviv shooter was identified as Nashat Milhem (pictured), a 29-year-old Israeli Arab resident of Arara, a village in the Wadi Ara in northern Israel. Ansari said that Milhem was unknown to him and the organization, “but that makes it all the more exciting to follow, especially among the brethren in Palestine.”
“It will be terrific if it emerges that the brother who carried out the operation was in the service of the Islamic State,” Ansari said. “Even if he was only inspired by the State and the Caliphate, that’s also okay because it will give a great impetus to our activity in occupied Palestine.”
“Inshallah, it will turn out that the act was made as part of the desire to fulfill the promise of ‘The Prince of the Faithful’ [i.e. the Caliph],” he added. “Thousands of jihadists in Palestine and abroad are expecting to hear that he was at least a sympathizer of IS.”
“We’d like to see more of those operations in occupied Palestine, just like the ones we saw in Paris. I know that there are people working to this effect. There is no place for infidels in Palestine.”
Milhem is currently at-large after shooting up a central Tel Aviv pub on Friday, killing two people and wounding seven, some seriously. Amid story weather here, police are still searching the city for the alleged shooter, with particular focus on North Tel Aviv.
Eye witnesses to the carnage on Friday described a calm assailant who seemed to have had an escape plan in place. While some have pointed to reports of mental illness, Milhem’s cool behavior before and during the attack may indicate some level of military training, or at least preparedness for the assault.
According to reports, a Koran was found in Milhem’s backpack, possibly evidencing Islamic motivation and not merely mental illness.
Milhem stems from northern Israel. In recent weeks, Israeli and Palestinian security services have clamped down on cells of Salafists who reportedly joined the Islamic State. Some of those extremists were Israeli Arabs from northern Israel.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency in December announced the arrest of Israeli Arab youths from Nazareth for declaring allegiance to the Islamic State. The Shin Bet said that during interrogations “it emerged that, in the past year, the youths obtained firearms and trained with them, while becoming more devout during meetings they held. They expressed support for ISIS [Islamic State], and praised the jihad against infidels.”
Two weeks ago, two cousins accused of being Islamic State operatives were arrested in the Nazareth area on suspicion of plotting attacks in northern Israel.
On Friday, hours after the attack, Salafists in the Gaza Strip allied with IS ideology claimed responsibility for firing 5 rockets form Gaza into southern Israel.