Scramble to find man who brought horror back to Tel Aviv
SEVEN DAYS IN to the manhunt for Nashat Melhem, the man accused of carrying out the shooting at a Tel Aviv bar last Friday afternoon, and there is still no clear sign of his whereabouts.
The attack outside Ha-Simta bar on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street left two dead: Alon Bakal, a manager of the bar, and Shimon Ruimi, who was attending a party there. Eight others were wounded.
The main development in the investigation so far has been the arrest of Melhem’s father, who initially told the police that the man seen on CCTV cameras preparing the attack was his 29-year-old son.
Mr Melhem claimed that his son had stolen his a sub-machine gun that he had held under a license. He is now suspected, along with five other friends and relatives, of assisting the murderer.
Mohammed Melhem’s attorney claimed that the police and Shin Bet security service have no clear evidence against his client, who publicly called for his son to turn himself in.
Police said that despite the father’s claim to have no idea where his son may be hiding, he had been in phone contact with him since the shooting.
Melhem junior served prison time in the past for attempting to snatch a rifle from a soldier and had been regarded as “disturbed” but not a member of a terror organisation. In recent years he worked as a deliveryman in the north Tel Aviv neighbourhood of Ramat Aviv, and was not on the security services radar as a potential terrorist.
An Israeli citizen from the Ara Valley in the north, he is one of only a small handful of Arab-Israelis to have carried out a terror attack in recent months; nearly all the perpetrators have been residents of East Jerusalem or the West Bank.
In Melhem’s absence and with the police observing new rules of non-disclosure to the media (as part of the new commissioner Ronny Alsheikh’s policy), a number of questions remain unanswered. Was Melhem in contact with any Palestinian organisations or was he radicalised online by Daesh? Why was Mohammed Melhem allowed to own weapons? Police also link Nashat to the murder of an Israeli-Arab taxi driver, an hour after the Ha-Simta shooting.
The shooting has exacerbated already tense relations between the government and Israel’s Arab minority. Speaking at the scene, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against lawlessness in the Arab sector.
Alleged killer Melhem