The body of Nashat Melhem, who is believed to have killed three people in Tel Aviv on January 1, and was later killed in a shoot-out with security forces, will not be returned to his family for burial until it is clear that his funeral will not become a “show of support for terrorism,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday.
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Eight people remain under arrest on suspicion of providing assistance to Melhem, who comes from the Arab village of Arara in northern Israel, or on suspicion that they saw him after the Tel Aviv attacks and failed to immediately report his whereabouts.
“As long as the family meets the demands the Israel Police have made to ensure that the terrorist’s funeral will not be turned into a show of support for terrorism and incitement to additional attacks – then the body will be released,” Erdan said.
Earlier this week, one of Melhem's relatives told Haaretz that the Shin Bet security service had told the family the funeral could be held only if it was attended by no more than 20 people, all of them close relatives.
The detention of a young male relative from Arara, where Melhem was confronted and killed by security forces last Friday, was extended on Monday by an additional 10 days. Another relative, arrested last Tuesday, was ordered to remain in custody for an another eight days. The two live not far from the house in which Melhem hid out after the shooting.
On Monday, the father of one of the two detainees told Haaretz that his son had no connection to the Tel Aviv shootings and at the time was at the home of relatives in the city of Umm al-Fahm, north of Arara.
“[My son] is mentally ill. We have had him treated and he is better. He got a driver’s license and opened a small business,” the detainee’s father said, adding that the son has a 4-month-old son.
“He knew Nashat just like all of us in the village did,” the father added, noting that a family feud has divided the extended Melhem family for the last two years, and that the men who were arrested come from the other faction.
Adel Buerat, a lawyer representing the two told Haaretz that his clients have been prevented from meeting with him and that court hearings on their cases are being held behind closed doors. With regard to the burial of Nashat Melhem, Buerat said the family is trying to arrange a quiet burial “without noise.”