Arab Students in Tel Aviv: Police Tore Through Our Homes 'As if Terrorist Hiding on a Shelf'

Arab students, residents face police scrutiny as police enter their fourth day searching for Nashat Melhem.

Ahmad Amar's room after a police search.
Ahmad Amar

Police are searching homes rented by Arabs in northern Tel Aviv as part of their search for the assailant from Friday's shooting attack, which killed two and wounded seven.   

Israel Police's search for the assailant, 29-year-old Nashat Melhem, is entering its fourth day. Police still consider Melhem "armed and dangerous."

Police and Shin Bet investigators believe Melhem wasn't planning to return alive from the killing spree. Police are investigating the possibility that Melhem wasn't acting alone, and may have had an accomplice who knew of his plans in advance. 

Arab students at the nearby Tel Aviv University living in the area said police searched their apartments and the university dorms rooms. They said security forces were mainly focusing on the rooms of students originally from Wadi Ara and the Triangle. Tarek Awad, one of the students, said police had also questioned Arab students immediately after Friday's shooting.

On Monday afternoon, police arrived at the apartment of Ahmad Amar, who is doing his medical internship at a hospital around Tel Aviv and lives with two friends on Recanati Street. Though they did not have a warrant, Amar explained, they asked to search the apartment.

“I wasn’t home at the time, only my roommates were. They conducted a comprehensive search which included taking clothes out of the closet and throwing over the bed, as if a terrorist could be hiding on a shelf.”

Amar, who lived in Tel Aviv for six years, said he was offended that being Arabs immediately made them suspects. “And how did the police come straight to us? Did someone in the building suspect us, just because we’re Arabs?”

Amar and his roommates were not the only Arabs to experience such searches. Javiar Sidawi, a nursing student, was surprised when a police force arrived Sunday to the apartment his shares with his cousins in north Tel Aviv.

“When they found out we were from Arara [Melhem’s town] they got nervous and summoned other investigators, some in civilian clothes, and questioned us. I didn’t see any search warrant.” He added, however, that the police looked through the apartment without searching any closets or doing any damage.

The searches of private apartments are being done" lawfully and with the consent of the tenanats," Chief Superintendent Hila Hamu contended, and are being done "in various areas based on reports and tips."

"There is no substance to the claims of property damage or offending the tenants," he said.