Shin Bet Objected to Israel Police Revealing Tel Aviv Shooter's Identity

Police believed releasing Mashat Melhem's name and picture would raise public awareness, the security service preferred to conduct the search in a more discreet manner.

Yaniv Kubovich
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The suspected assailant in the Tel Aviv shooting in a 2007 photo.
The suspected assailant in the Tel Aviv shooting in a 2007 photo.Credit: Itzik Ben-Malki
Yaniv Kubovich

The name of the suspected assailant behind the shooting in Tel Aviv was released on Saturday: Mashat Melhem, a 29-year-old resident of Arara in northern Israel.

at the Simta bar, on the corner of Dizengoff and Gordon St. in central Tel Aviv. The two killed in the attack were Alon Bakal, 26, a manager at the pub, Shimon Ruimi, 30, a resident of Ofakim. 

Melhem's identity was cleared for publication after an internal dispute between the Shin Bet and Israel Police. The police believed releasing Melhem's name and picture would aid in his eventual capture, but the Shin Bet preferred to conduct the search in a more discreet manner.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich initially deferred to the Shin Bet, but eventually opted to clear Melhem's name for publication. Police officials believed publishing pictures of Melhem would increase public awareness, boosting the possibility of citizens recognizing him. 

The police believe Melhem will be forced to eventually enter public spaces to buy food, lodging, fuel, a taxi or any other service that will aid him to prevent being captured. They argue that without publishing his name and picture, the public would lack the information necessary to identify him. On Friday, the police published pictures of the suspect, just as French security forces did following the Paris attacks.

The Shin Bet lacks intelligence on the suspect's current location, and security officials have expressed concern over the fact that the suspect's whereabouts are not yet known. Police fear the suspect might hole up in an apartment or a crowded place. Special police and military units are on high alert in case of such an occurrence. Israeli security forces were performing searches based on tips regarding suspicious characters. The police also suspect the suspect is holding a small amount of money that will allow him to manage in the short-term.

Melhem had stolen the gun from his father, who works in security. The father had recognized the suspect from media reports and reached out to the police.

Melhem's father said Saturday that he hopes police apprehend his son before he hurts more people. "I am a law-abiding Israeli citizen. I heard that my son did what he did. I didn't raise him like this. I'm sorry. I came to the police and helped the security services," the father said in a statement to the press from his home in Wadi Ara.

He added that he extends his condolences to the families and wishes the wounded a speedy recovery. The father, who was questioned by police on Friday, said that he was "exhausted and tired," adding that "it's important to me now that they will find and arrest my son because he is still armed, and seeing that he murdered two people, he could kill more people."

. During his interrogation in 2007, he said that he wanted to avenge his cousin's death.

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