Mohammed Melhem, the father of Tel Aviv shooter Nashet Melhem, has been freed from custody along with his son Ali.
The two men were released to house arrest on $1,270 bond in an agreement between the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet/Shabak) and attorney Nechami Feinblatt, a public defender who represents the family.
“I think the Shin Bet understands that the family wanted to help capture him and not help him,” the attorney said.
Both were held in custody along with six other relatives and friends last week while the killer was at large. They were arrested on charges of being accessories to murder, illegal association and conspiracy to commit a crime and premeditated manslaughter.
Melhem murdered three people in Tel Aviv on Jan. 1 using a weapon he stole from his father, a volunteer police officer. It was the elder Melhem who identified his son to police as the killer after seeing a video of the murders on television.
The manhunt for the Tel Aviv shooter has expanded into northern Israel after five days of fruitless searching for the killer in the city and its surrounds.
Israel Police Commissioner Inspector-General Roni Alsheich has ordered the deployment of officers to Arab towns along the northern 1949 Armistice Line, also known as the “1967 line” or Green Line.
Police began searching for Tel Aviv shooter Nashet Melhem in the area early Wednesday after concluding he has managed to escape from the city. Melhem and his parents live in the northern Israeli Arab town of Ar’ara, in Wadi Ara.
Melhem killed two people and wounded eight others last Friday in an attack on a Dizengoff Street pub, “Simta.” He is also believed to have murdered Bedouin cab driver Ayman Sha’aban of Lod. Melhem allegedly hailed the cab right after the murders and rode with Sha’aban to an open area near the Glilot interchange, then allegedly killed him and escaped.
Although his father, volunteer police officer Muhammed Melhem identified his son last week after seeing video footage of the attack and pleaded before media for him to turn himself in, he was arrested Tuesday as a possible accessory. Two of the shooter’s brothers had already been arrested on Saturday.
In addition, the shooter’s brothers and a number of other relatives and friends have been arrested as well. All have been charged as possible accomplices in his escape.
His mother was also taken into custody Tuesday for questioning but she was not charged.
A large contingent of police and other security personnel are now involved in hunting for Melhem in northern Israel.
Schools opened Sunday morning amid tight security as security forces continued to hunt through Tel Aviv for a gunman who killed two people and wounded at least eight others at a cafe on Friday.
But it became clear after the first hour that parents of approximately half of the children were too frightened to send their children to school. Of 1600 preschool and kindergarten-age children, only 230 made it to class, and approximately half of all other students stayed home as well, according to the Hebrew-language Ynet site.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai reassured parents in a live interview on Galei Tzahal IDF Army Radio that parents who felt insecure about sending their children to school could keep them home.
“It’s okay for you to to keep your children home if you feel unsure,” Huldai said. But he also emphasized that the city had beefed up security around schools and other high-population areas in the wake of Friday’s shooting at a café on Dizengoff Street.
All schools and classes are open, including the preschools and kindergartens, and all school trips and activities are continuing as scheduled. The city raised its alert and added 24-hour patrols as security personnel continue their manhunt for the killer who murdered two and wounded eight others.
Nashat Milhem, 31, is from the northern Israeli Arab village of Ar’ara. He has already served time in an Israeli prison and is also known to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder which makes him even more unpredictable. Milhem is still believed to be carrying the assault rifle he allegedly used in the attack on the café.
His family identified him from the video footage broadcast from the attack on media and immediately contacted law enforcement; his father made a public apology, saying, “I am sorry. I did not raise my son this way.”
Residents in the north Tel Aviv neighborhood of Ramat Aviv reported seeing a man who fit Milhem’s description, drawing a large security force to the area.
Personnel from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet / Shabak) and special ops police units are continuing door-to-door searchers in apartment buildings and construction sites in and around Tel Aviv as they search for Milhem.
Following the Sabbath, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the attack. He praised the statements of support from the Israeli Arab community and condemnations of the attack from Israeli Arab leaders. Netanyahu then turned his attention to Israeli Arab MKs and Islamist clerics who have been responsible for the mixed messages conveyed to the Israeli Arab public. Such messages have, to a great extent, contributed to the incitement that has whipped up the frenzy of hate driving some of the Israeli Arab teens who now are intent upon murdering their fellow Israelis.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this evening, visited the murder scene on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv where he was briefed on the progress of the investigation by – inter alia – Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Israel Police Inspector General Roni Alsheich. The Prime Minister lit a memorial candle and spoke with one of the pub’s owners.
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
“Yesterday there was a heinous and unbelievably vicious murder here. Young people, whose entire lives were ahead of them, the ages of my own children, were innocently sitting celebrating a birthday and were murdered in cold blood. I would like to send heartfelt condolences to the families of those who were murdered and wishes for a complete and quick recovery to the wounded. We are praying for their well-being.
The Israel Police and ISA are working around the clock to apprehend the murderer. I just received a comprehensive briefing on their operations. They, the security forces of the State of Israel, are working to the best of their abilities. The photograph of the murderer has been published; additional photographs of him will also be published. We have reinforced our units in all relevant areas. I request that the public be on maximum alert.
I appreciate the condemnations of the crime that have been made by the Arab public. I must say that I expect all Arab MKs, all of them without exception, to clearly condemn the murder without hesitation. Murder is murder, and must be condemned and acted against from whatever quarter.
Among Israel’s Muslim citizens there are many elements that have come out against the violence and wish for full law enforcement in their communities. However, we all know that there is wild radical Islamic incitement against the State of Israel in the Arab sector. There is incitement in mosques, in the educational system and in social media. We are taking strong action against this incitement just as we did when we outlawed the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement and the Mourabitoun. I am not prepared to accept two States of Israel, a state of law for most of its citizens and a state within a state for some of them, in enclaves in which there is no law enforcement and in which there is Islamist incitement, rampant crime and illegal weapons that are frequently fired at events such as weddings. This era has ended.
I have formulated a plan, along with the Public Security Minister and the Israel Police Inspector General, a plan with a lot of money and resources. We will dramatically increase law enforcement services in the Arab sector. Israel will enforce the law and its sovereignty in all parts of the country – in the Galilee, the Negev and the Triangle, everywhere. We will build new police stations, recruit more police and go into all communities and demand from all of them loyalty to the laws of the state. One cannot say ‘I am an Israeli in rights and a Palestinian in obligations.’ Whoever wants to be Israeli should be an Israeli all the way, both in rights and in obligations, and the first and highest obligation is to obey the laws of the state.
I view positively the increasing involvement in the IDF, in civilian service and in the overall life of the state, of the Christian, Druze and northern Bedouin communities, and within the Muslim community as well. I call on all citizens of Israel, especially its Muslim citizens, to take the path of integration, coexistence and peace and not the path of incitement, hatred and fanaticism. We are all citizens of the state and are all bound to maintain it and uphold its laws.
Arab officials have expressed outrage at the government’s decision to delay by three days a vote on a major five-year plan involving funding in huge segments of Arab municipalities.
The government postponed the vote until Wednesday on a NIS 15b funding plan for education, transportation, housing and employment because the targeted cities did not include mixed Arab-Jewish populations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Social Services Minister Gila Gamliel created the plan allegedly hoping to change the way government allocates its funding for such purposes.
The ministers were reportedly hoping to give a swift economic push for development of Arab society in Israel, thereby narrowing the gaps between the Jewish and Arab populations.
But Likud Science Minister Ofir Akunis and Culture Minister Miri Regev both objected to the plan due to its lack of balance.
“It’s very important to include the mixed cities,” said Regev. “We’re allowed to represent them and we should not apologize because they [the mayors] are from Likud … not all of them are. We’re talking about Haifa, Tel Aviv-Yafo (Jaffa), Ramle, Lod and Akko – these billions of shekels need to serve the Arab public in mixed cities as well,” she said.
If passed, NIS 1.2 billion will be allocated to promote construction in Arab municipalities and NIS 1.4 billion will be used to improve public transportation in local authorities. For example, information about public schedules will be translated to Arabic for the first time and there will be an increase for subsidies to public transportation in Arab communities.
A full 40 percent of the State of Israel public transportation budget will be used in the Arab sector. In addition, 32.5 percent of funding in the economic development and employment sector will be allocated in 2016 to the development of industrial zones in Arab municipalities. Plus, 17.5 percent of the Small and Medium Business Agency budget will be allocated to Arab sector businesses.
The plan also includes significant investment in Arab sector education, particularly in the field of training educators in both elementary and higher education.
But nothing ever seems to be enough: Arab officials were outraged by the decision to postpone the vote three days, till Wednesday.