Tel Aviv Shooter Still Armed, at Large and Planning Another Attack, Police Believe

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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

The shooter who carried out the attack in Tel Aviv on Friday is still armed, and may be planning another attack, police believe, Haaretz learned on Sunday.

According to police and Shin Bet investigators, 29-year-old Nashat Melhem, who is still at large, 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.

Due to concerns of another attack, large police forces were back on the streets of Tel Aviv on Sunday, and the public was asked to stay alert.  

Police search for gunman who shot several people in central Tel Aviv, January 1, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vankin

On Saturday night the police and Shin Bet located the suspect's phone, after it had begun sending out a signal for the first time since the Friday attack. The phone's signal led them to an apartment in northern Tel Aviv, where the device – but not the suspect – was found.

An initial investigation concluded that a young girl had found the device near her school in the area on Friday, roughly two hours after the attack, and had taken it home with her.

Police and Shin Bet investigators are also looking into a possible connection between Melhem and the murder of taxi driver Amin Shaaban hours after the attack. Investigators are trying to figure out if and when the two may have come across each other and whether his death was just an unrelated cab robbery gone awry.

Policemen searching for the assailant who killed two and wounded seven at a central Tel Aviv bar, January 1, 2016. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Melhem, who police believe has enough money to sustain him in the near future, had been working until recently at a grocer's at a commercial center in Ramat Aviv Gimel, a neighborhood in northern Tel Aviv. Many shop owners who knew Malhem said that he wasn't suffering from mental issues, as was claimed by his family.

Malhem's former employer told investigators that he used to do deliveries in the neighborhood, and was familiar with its streets and with several residents. Some in the neighborhood expressed concern that Malhem has prepared a hideout in the area in advance. 

The manhunt for the suspect continued through Sunday morning, with the police and Shin Bet 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.

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

Tel Aviv educational institutions increased security Sunday with 50 percent of students in northern Tel Aviv staying home.

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 Melhem, 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. They were both laid to rest Sunday.

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