Tel Aviv Schools Boost Security Amid Manhunt for Shooting Suspect

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Increased security outside of a Tel Aviv school, January 3, 2016.
Increased security outside of a Tel Aviv school, January 3, 2016.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service reported a significant development Sunday morning in the investigation into Friday's Tel Aviv shooting attack.

Security officials say they have accumulated more information over the past 24 hours regarding the events preceding the shooting, as well as the events that followed.

The manhunt for the suspect, Nashat Melhem, continued through Sunday morning, focusing their search in north Tel Aviv. However, officials decided to conduct searches covertly and without weapons drawn, in order to allay panic among the public. Officials also decided to station forces in crowded places throughout the city.

Tel Aviv educational institutions increased security Sunday morning amid the manhunt for the suspected assailant behind Friday's deadly shooting. Classes and trips are being held as scheduled. Israel Police are continuing to gather intelligence relating to Melhem's whereabouts.

50 percent of students in northern Tel Aviv stayed home from school. 90 percent of students attended classes in south Tel Aviv, while 70 percent of students in central Tel Aviv attended classes.

The Tel Aviv municipality said that security guards and patrolmen are working in coordination with police, specifically near schools and crowded areas. The municipality called on people to go about their regular routines, but to report any unusual incidents.

"I understand parents' feelings in light of existing tensions," Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai said. "I met with the prime minister and all senior security officials, and we agreed to considerably reinforce security around the city's educational institutions over the next several days."

Large forces consisting of Israel Police, the Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces continue to search for Melhem, a 29-year-old Israeli Arab from Arara in northern Israel. Defense officials expressed concern that they have no leads to Melhem's whereabouts. Police remain concerned that he may be entrenched in an apartment or a crowded place. Special units remain on high alert in case of such an incident.

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 had served time in prison for trying to snatch a soldier's weapon. During his interrogation in 2007, he said that he wanted to avenge his cousin's death.

Juadat Milhem, Melhem's brother, was arrested on Friday in connection to the attack.

Two people were killed and seven were wounded in the shooting 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.