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.
A Muslim Arab from eastern Jerusalem is also involved in the efforts to capture Melhem.
Mazen Qaq, chairman of the Committee of Jerusalem’s Old City Merchants, has offered a substantial cash reward for viable information leading to Melhem’s capture.
“We need to stop with the ‘Arab against Israeli’ narrative,” he said. “We are all cousins who wish to live in peace.”
Hana Levi Julian