Tel Aviv gunman killed in police raid
Israeli Arab killed by police after one of biggest manhunts in Israeli history
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: he congratulated the security forces
An Israeli Arab, wanted for killing three people in Tel Aviv a week ago, has been shot and killed by Israeli police after one of the biggest manhunts in Israeli history.
Nashat Melhem (29) was tracked down to a hideout in his home town of Arara in northern Israel and, according to Israeli officials, was killed by members of the police special anti-terror unit when he opened fire at them on leaving the building.
Members of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet led police to the building after an intensive week-long security sweep that initially focused on Tel Aviv and then spread to Arab communities in northern Israel.
Melhem, who had previously served time in jail for trying to grab a soldier’s weapon, killed two Israelis at a bar on Tel Aviv’s popular Dizengoff Street on January 1st and shortly afterwards an Israeli Arab taxi driver who had picked him up after the attack.
Security camera footage showed him calmly taking an automatic rifle out of his backpack at a health food store and then firing into the bar next door, before fleeing on foot.
The massive police search began immediately and thousands of Tel Aviv parents kept their children at home for days, fearing the suspect was still at large in the city.
Melhem’s father, Mohammed, identified his son as the suspect and reported him.
However, a few days later, Melhem’s father and several other relatives were arrested and the police suspected they knew more than they were telling. Eventually, police efforts focused on Melhem’s home town of Arara and house-to-house searches were carried out before his hideout was discovered.
Security officials said Melhem had been hiding in Arara since fleeing Tel Aviv shortly after the attack and had changed his hideout a number of times. The assessment was that he was helped by relatives and possibly by members of Israel’s Islamic movement.
Israeli intelligence was reportedly examining whether Melhem had come under the influence of Islamic State jihadist ideology.
Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu congratulated the security forces, who he said had “worked tirelessly, methodically and professionally to locate and eliminate the terrorist”.
Defence minister Moshe Ya’alon welcomed the end of the affair: “This proved once again that Israel will pursue until the end those who seek its harm . . .”