Police name Tel Aviv shooting suspect as Nashaat Melchem
Channel 10 news
Israeli authorities on Saturday evening removed a gag order on the identity of the gunman in the Tel Aviv shooting attack on Friday and revealed that Nashaat Melchem is the suspect wanted by police. Israeli television stations were airing the pictures of Melchem while police called on the public for help in finding the shooter and forces were dispatched to search abandoned warehouses and construction sites.
Earlier on Saturday police entered the family home of the 29-year-old Israeli Arab in the Arab town of Arara in a bid to gather more information on his whereabouts. During the raid of the apartment in the central Wadi Ara area, police confiscated a computer and arrested his brother for questioning, Israeli news website Walla reported.
Two people were killed and at least seven wounded Friday when the gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle on a pub and nearby cafe in central Tel Aviv, but the motive behind the attack was not immediately clear. Two of the injured remain in intensive care at Tel Aviv's Ichilov hospital.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the scene of the shooting on Saturday evening, where he lit a candle at a vigil set up by Tel Aviv residents in memory of the two victims of the attack.
Speaking at the scene, Netanyahu decried the "inconceivable cruelty of heinous murder", calling on the public to remain on alert and announcing tightened security measures.
"I will not accept two states in Israel - there is one state under rule of law and another one with wild incitement. This era is over... One cannot be a citizen and only accept rights without the duties.We're all citizens of the state and all obliged to keep the law," Netanyhu said, speaking to reporters at the scene.
"We will demand loyalty to the state's law. One cannot be Israeli in rights and Palestinian in duties," he added.
Netanyahu acknowledged the Arab public's many condemnations of the attack and called on Arab MK's to also denounce the shooting, saying the government would bolster law enforcement within Israel's Arab sector.
Security officials announced Saturday that they believe the assailant is still in the Tel Aviv area, Israel's Channel 2 reported.
Authorities issued a statement warning that the shooter may attempt to take hostages while he is on the run from police, and that they believe he is still armed.
The shooting came amid a recent wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis and days after the leader of the Islamic State (IS) group threatened the Jewish state with violence.
However, police stressed they were investigating in "all directions".
Father's shooter called police
According to media reports, Melchem's father saw the picture of him caught on a security camera and called police. The shooter's father told police that the attack was carried out using his gun, which his son stole. Media reports that Melchem's father is a police volunteer and a security guard.
A senior security source revealed to i24news that the shooter had a criminal record and had previously spent five years in Israeli prison. Members of the suspect's family as well as his lawyer described him as "mentally deranged" and he even reportedly spent time in a mental health facility.
Melchem's cousin was killed by Israeli police in 2006, an event which the family says plunged him into depression. Police raided the cousin's home after receiving intel that he was storing weapons intended to be used in a terror attack. During the raid, the cousin reportedly produced a weapon, and a police officer who believed him to be a threat shot and killed him.
Melchem a year later attempted to avenge the death of his cousin by trying to steal a gun from an Israeli soldier, which he intended to use to kill Israelis. He was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison.
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, a relative of the shooter said that he had a history of violent tendencies and that the family had called the police on numerous occasions because of his behavior.
"We know he was being treated for mental [issues]," said the relative. "We haven't heard much about him recently. He wasn't married and we always suspected he was unstable."
The shooters family members condemned the attack.
In an interview with Israel's Channel 10, one family member, Ahmed Melchem, urged the shooter to turn himself into the authorities.
“He knows Tel Aviv,” Melchem said, explaining that the shooter had held jobs in Tel Aviv, including one at a vegetable market.
Arara's council condemned the shooting in a statement, saying residents "fiercely object to any act of violence".
"This is the act of one individual who does not represent any of the town's residents," the statement said, stressing that the attack was "foreign to our culture".
'We fell to the floor and I remember his smile'
Security footage from the Anis health-food store shows the gunman filling a plastic bag with nuts and approaching the store's counter, appearing to get ready to make a purchase, before dumping out the bag and reaching into his backpack, pulling out an automatic weapon and exiting the store firing shots into the busy pub next door.
Witness reported that the shooter appeared calm and methodical.
An employee at a nearby pub told Ma'ariv newspaper, "We were sitting outside and suddenly we heard five or six shots close to each other. Everyone who was in the street started running like crazy. We ran into the kitchen with customers...One of the waiters at the scene said shots were directed into the bar."
Another witness at a nearby cafe told Ma'ariv: "It was a quiet Friday, I was complaining that my sandwich was late. Suddenly we heard a shot. At the second shot, a father with his child ran in and yelled at us to 'lie down'! I still didn't really digest what had happened. Suddenly there was a shot to the cafe where we were. Then I saw the shooter was standing right in front of me in a black coat with bristly black hair, holding a rifle with two hands. "
"We fell to the floor and I remember his smile," the witness added.
An ex-paramedic, who was in the area at the time of the shooting, was one of the first to arrive on the scene. He told i24news that he entered the pub, where he began clearing tables to treat the more seriously wounded until paramedics arrived on scene.
The man, who asked only to be identified as 'Kfir', told i24news that he has not seen an incident like this since his time as a paramedic in Netanya during the Second Intifada, and praised the bravery of onlookers who rushed to the scene to help the wounded without concern for their own safety.
In a statement to the press, Yarkon police subdistrict commander (Dep.-Ch.) Yehuda Dahan said that “we are now on a manhunt with all of the police in the organization and the Shin Bet taking part.”
Staff with agencies
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