Netanyahu OKs Release of Tel Aviv Suspect's Photos Despite Security Officials' Objections

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Shin Bet say publication of Nashat Melhem's picture would interfere with investigation.

Police searching for the perpetrator of Friday's attack in northern Tel Aviv, January 4, 2016.
Moti Milrod

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the release of recent pictures of Nashat Melhem, the suspected assailant of the Tel Aviv shooting attack Friday that left three dead and seven wounded.

Netanyahu made his decision despite opposition from Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and the Shin Bet, who all claimed it would interfere with their ongoing investigation.

Senior police officials have harshly criticized Alsheich, who assumed his role as police commissioner last month, for the way he is managing the investigation of the attack in Tel Aviv. Police sources say that since the Friday afternoon attack, Alsheich has not taken senior police officials' opinions into account on the investigation. Sources added that no proper discussion regarding the operational needs of the investigation is taken place, and there is no effective plan to disseminate case developments to the public.

Up-to-date photo of suspected attacker Nashat Melhem released by police on January 4, 2015.
Israel Police

In a breach from protocol, there is no interagency cooperation between the police and the Shin Bet, senior police officials explained. Before taking his current position with the Israel police, Alsheich served as the deputy head of the Shin Bet, though he has made no headway in increasing interagency dialogue between his old collages and new ones. Senior police officers contend that the lack of cooperation and transparency is hindering parts of the investigation.

The manhunt for Melhem continued Monday for a fourth day, with police trying to retrace his tracks in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

Police believe Melhem is still in Tel Aviv, and that he is armed and dangerous; however they haven't yet ruled out the possibility that he may have left the area in a getaway prepared in advance. Police also said that they cannot rule out the possibility that Melhem would strike again. Police and Shin Bet investigators said Sunday Melhem wasn't planning to return alive from the killing spree, and were investigating if he had an accomplice who knew of his plans in advance.