Israel Police Arrest Father of Tel Aviv Shooting Suspect

Five others also arrested, including relatives and friends of the suspect; police chief makes first public statements on manhunt, urges Tel Aviv residents to calm down.

Muhammad Melhem in court, January 5, 2016.
Rami Shllush

The father of Nashat Melhem, who is suspected of carrying out Friday’s shooting attack in Tel Aviv  that killed two people, was arrested on Tuesday morning, along with five other relatives and family friends.

An attorney representing Mohammed Melhem, 63, said he was arrested on suspicion of premeditated manslaughter, being an accessory to murder, illegal association and conspiracy to commit a crime.

The six were brought before the Haifa Magistrate’s Court for extension of their remand on Tuesday afternoon. 

The alleged shooter's father, Badar Melhem, 60, and Ayman Sharkiya, 38, were remanded for two days, while Amin Melhem, 23, was remanded until Sunday. Two other suspects from East Jerusalem were also remanded, one until Thursday and the other until Sunday.

Melhem talks to reporters on Monday outside a Haifa Magistrate Court. January 4, 2016
Rami Shaloush

Also brought before the court was Melhem's brother, who was arrested on Saturday. Police are exploring alternative types of detenion after the judge ordered the brother freed.

The search for Nashat Melhem in the Tel Aviv area has entered its fifth day. Law enforcement have warned he could strike again.

Police Chief Roni Alsheich said Tuesday morning that the level of tension among the Israeli public in the central Gush Dan region can be lowered considerably.

Police said on Monday they have reason to believe that the gunman also murdered another man: a taxi driver found murdered near north Tel Aviv's Mandarin Hotel a short while after the attack. 

Police Chief Roni Alsheich in Karmiel, January 5, 2016.
News walla

Also on Monday, Melhem's father called on the suspect to give himself up. “I call on my son directly, if you can, cooperate with me and contact me to arrange matters,” Mohammed Melhem said in his appeal in Hebrew and Arabic.

The father was speaking to reporters outside Haifa Magistrate’s Court where the detention of another family member was extended for three days in connection with the investigation.

Mohammed Melhem opened his comments to the press with wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded in Friday’s shooting attack on the Simta pub on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv. He also expressed condolences to the families of the two people killed in the shooting.

“I strongly condemn this incident,” the father said, adding that terrorism is not “how we conduct ourselves.” He also addressed comments to law enforcement in reference to his son, saying: “You and I can arrive at a situation in which the boy will be arrested. This situation is difficult and unusual,” he said, but also acknowledged concern about the danger his son might pose: “There is fear that he will harm many more people."

Commenting on another of his sons and another relative who were arrested following Friday’s attack, he said: “They are not linked to this matter and you, the media and the reporters, know that the Shin Bet [security service] are putting on the pressure, as is their right. There is nothing to object to.” Mohammed Melhem said at that point he had devoted about 60 hours to to the investigation by law enforcement of his son’s case.

Nachmi Fainblat, a lawyer representing the two Melhem family members arrested following Friday’s attack, claimed the fact that the Shin Bet had asked that their detention be extended by ten days but the court only agreed to three days reflects their lack of involvement in the incident, saying “the matter speaks for itself.”

For his part, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who was interviewed Monday on the Knesset’s television channel said Nashat Melhem “was more sophisticated than [people] think. He is not nave and eccentric.” As an indication of the suspect’s sophistication, Erdan said Melhem deliberately avoided bringing his cellphone to the scene of the crime “to make it harder to locate him,” since law enforcement can trace the whereabouts of mobile phones.