After issuing alert, police say no immediate threat of terror attack in Tel Aviv
Jack Guez (AFP)
Israeli police rasied the level of alert in Tel Aviv on Friday, but added that the decision to increase security around the city was not indicitive of an imminent terror threat.
The decision to bolster security around the city, they said, was rather a measure of preparedness following a new security assessment by the Tel Aviv District Police,
The police made it clear that the public should remain on alert, but that there was no need to panic and residents should continue acting according to routine.
Roadblocks were set up between Netanya in the north and Rishon LeZion south of Tel Aviv, and a large police force was dispatched to the Tel Aviv and Gush Dan regions.
Israeli authorities are continuing their manhunt for the suspect in last week's deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv, focusing in the northern part of the country.
Police revealed that while search efforts for the fugitive suspected gunman continue in the north of Israel, another search is ongoing focused on the 'seamline' between Israel and the West Bank, where Israeli-Arab Nashaat Melhem could be hiding, believing that he may have been helped by accomplice who helped him escape.
Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon suggested on Friday that Melhem may have been influenced by Islamic State ideologies.
“[There] are a few Israeli Arabs who enlist on behalf of spreading [extremist] ideology and go to fight in Syria or Iraq — or try to operate from here. Who knows the motives of the terrorist who operated in Tel Aviv just a week ago,” Ya’alon said during an interview with Israel's Army Radio.
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.
During the course of the investigation Melhem's father, two brothers, uncle and a number of additional family members and friends have been arrested or detained for questioning. While police have released Juadat Melhem, Nashaat's brother, his father will remain in custody until at least Sunday after Haifa's Magistrate Court extended his detention for three days on Thursday believing that he may be concealing information which may help locate Melhem.
Nahmi Feinblatt, the lawyer representing three other relatives who have been arrested by police said that they would also be released on Sunday and that "the mystery of the perpetrator’s whereabouts would be cleared up."
Meanwhile the mother Shimon Ruimi, one of the victims, has asked President Reuven Rivlin to recognize the shooting as a terror attack.
Rivlin was in Ofakim paying a condolence visit when Iris Ruimi asked him to "take action so that the attack in which Shimon was murdered be called a terrorist attack. I'm not even supposed to make such a request, it should be obvious."
"I am at a loss for words. The condolences strengthen us," she said. "My son was murdered simply because he was a Jew; he came to celebrate with friends. I thought it would automatically be called a terrorist attack. There are facts here – an Arab killed a Jew."
"I do not see why I should be in this position. I have to put words in their mouths? I lost the most precious thing in the world, I did not think this would be my fight now. If only we were the last ones the President has to comfort."
Other members of the Ruimi family said that "he was murdered for the sanctity of the country. He wanted to have a cup of coffee in his country. This is a kind of war, a war of survival."
Rivlin told the family that "you are in mourning, and all of Israel mourns with you. What is more 'alive' than the desire to go and celebrate a birthday with a friend? What friendship, what brotherhood. There is no consolation. All of Israel is shocked by the price it is paying, but no one will terrify us. "
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