The Israeli citizen moved to the United States when he was still a child, after his mother remarried. His family moved back to Ramla after some years abroad. His divorcee, Jessica, was stunned to hear the news, and said she was shocked.
Abuelazam, who was detained after boarding a Delta flight from Atlanta to Tel Aviv, visited Israel only six months ago.
According to information obtained by the police, Abuelazam was involved in a violent brawl with a friend, after which he left back to the US.
Abuelazam's acquaintances said he stayed close to his mother's house near the municipal market in Ramla. He didn’t have a steady job and was largely financed by his mother. Acquaintances also said Abuelazam sometimes used drugs and got entangled in fights.
"He is a bulky man, a frightening character; someone you don’t want to mess with," said an acquaintance.
Abuelazam did not have any serious criminal record with the police, and was not defined as a felon. He allegedly returned to the United States after violently attacking a friend who verbally assaulted him while he was intoxicated.
Despite these incidents, the allegations against Abuelazam caught the Ramla community by surprise and quickly turned into the day's topic.
Jessica, Abuelazam's divorcee, said she was completely shocked by the news. In a telephone conversation with Detroit News, the Arlington, Texas resident said she had not heard from her ex-husband in a long time, and refused to reveal any further information about him.
The manager of the Liquor store where Abuelazam worked as a cashier said he spoke with an Arabic accent and introduced himself as an Israeli.
The manager described Abuelazam as being "friendly," but one of the store's customers said he recently notices suspicious bruises on his body, apparently caused by a brawl.
The customer, Edward Gaines, said Abuelazam showed him his knee caps and hands, which were completely covered in scratches. Gaines added that several of Abuelazam's fingers were bandaged, and when asked about what had happened, Abuelazam replied that he had to take care of something.
Despite his identity being kept a mystery at first, almost all the passengers on flight DL152 from Atlanta to Tel Aviv on Thursday noticed something wasn't right about passenger Elias Abuelazam.
The first clue was when American federal police officers boarded the flight, along with bloodhounds, and combed every corner of the plane. Shortly afterwards, the police walked off the plane along with the bulky Elias Abuelazam, wearing a white shirt and in handcuffs.
While the passengers didn't learn more about the affair until they landed, their relatives waiting for them at the Ben Gurion Airport arrivals' hall already heard from reporters that the man removed from the flight before takeoff was no ordinary passenger, but a suspected serial killer.
Dalia Shoval-Shaked, who was waiting for her 12-year-old daughter to return from a summer vacation in the US said, "We didn't know anything about what was going on, my daughter Romi called and said there was a delay with the flight. We had no idea there was a serial killer on the flight, I am really worried. She is alone on the flight."
One nerve-wracking hour later, Romi landed and gave Ynet her account of what happened on the flight. "The guy was sitting right next to me, he had an Israeli appearance, he looked completely Israeli. He seemed a little nervous, and suddenly, police came over and asked him to go with them, they handcuffed him and took him away, he did not resist and did not say anything special.
"The name they called on the loudspeaker sounded like an Arabic name, I had no idea what was going on, now, when you tell me he could be a serial killer, it gets a whole new frightening meaning."
The Williams, an African-American family on their first visit to Israel, were surprised to hear that the man whose arrest they witnessed on the plane was suspected of murdering a number of African-Americans. "Really? We had no idea, we didn't even hear of those murders," one of them told Ynet.
The family said he was talking on the phone at the time of his arrest. "We saw him being led off. Even when they combed the plane with dogs we had no idea it was a murderer. It is very surprising to hear this."
Aviel Magnezi and News Agencies contributed to this report
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