Security forces arrested a relative of Nashat Melhem, suspected of shooting dead three men in Tel Aviv last Friday, in his hometown of Arara on Sunday, as his brother and father were released from custody after being held for over five days as the manhunt for the suspected assailant was ongoing.
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The forces said they were encircling the al-Daharat neighborhood in Arara, where Melhem was killed in a shootout with security forces on Friday, a week after the attack. One family member was arrested in the raid.
Ahmed Melhem, another relative, said police locked down the area for over an hour and complained at the mess the search caused. "There was an operation, they took over the area, closed it for over an hour. They entered the house, probably for a search or an arrest. It could have been done differently."
Another resident described the raid as "revenge" by the security forces, saying "this is a stain on the Jewish people. I hope those in power know there is only one God up there."
Melhem shot two victims, Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi, at a bar in central Tel Aviv on January 1. Seven others were wounded in the attack. The third victim, Amin Shaaban, a taxi driver, was killed by Melhem in northern Tel Aviv as he was making his escape.
The police say they believe Melhem fled Tel Aviv to the Wadi Ara area in northern Israel on the day of the attack, and that evidence shows that he was in the area for at least the last five days of his life, raising the question of how he managed to reach the north on Friday evening, and suggesting that he likely had accomplices.
Melhem's father, Mohammed, was arrested on Tuesday morning, along with five other relatives and family friends.
An attorney representing Mohammed Melhem at the time said he was arrested on suspicion of premeditated manslaughter, being an accessory to murder, illegal association and conspiracy to commit a crime. Following the attack, the senior Melhem urged his son to turn himself in, condemning the shooting vehemently.
Ali Sa'adi, the family's current lawyer, said at the end of Sunday's hearing at the Haifa's Magistrate Court that a deal was reached with the police's lawyers so that Mohammed and the brother would agree to house arrest with a $1,270 bail bond.
"There is not a single piece of evidence against them. They helped the police from day one," he said, claiming their arrest was part of a police attempt to put pressure on the family. "The father assisted [the police] from the onset and wanted his son to be caught." The two will serve their house arrest in their hometown of Arara.
Nahmi Feinblatt, the Melhems' previous attorney, told Haaretz last week that the father was the one who had informed the Shin Bet security service of Melhem’s whereabouts and that he had told him that if he received information he would help the security services.
Feinblatt said that on Friday morning a relative of Nashat Melhem called him to report that his wife and daughter-in-law had seen Melhem near a house he had broken into through a window. Feinblatt said they called his name and he acted as if it was not him, as first reported on Channel 10 News.
Melhem had served a prison sentence for assaulting an Israeli soldier and trying to snatch his gun, in revenge for the death of his cousin by police fire.