Manhunt Still Underway for Tel Aviv Shooter

Shooter identified as Mashat Melhem, 29, from Arara in northern Israel; special units on high alert as police fear a hostage situation.

Security forces search for the perpetrator of the Tel Aviv shooting attack in the city center, January 1, 2016.
Tomer Appelbaum

The manhunt for the Israeli Arab man suspected of carrying out Friday's attack on a bar in Tel Aviv is still underway. Police forces, the Shin Bet security service and the army remain on high alert for any new developments.

The name of the suspected assailant was cleared for publication Saturday night: Mashat Melhem, a 29-year-old resident of Arara in northern Israel.

The greatest concern of the police is that the shooter will entrench himself in a residential building or a crowded public place. Special units are on high alert in case of such an event.

Mourners place candles at the scene of a deadly shooting attack in downtown Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016.
Ofer Vaknin

The security forces are not certain of the location of the shooter.

The police have reasonable grounds to believe that the attacker has little money on him, but the fact that his whereabouts are unknown raises concern among high ranking security officials. Even now, despite knowing the shooter's identity and history, the authorities have not determined whether the shooting was nationalist or criminal in nature.

As the investigation progresses, there is growing evidence that the attack had nationalistic motivation, but the police is looking into all possibilities.

Shortly after the incident in central Tel Aviv, taxi driver Amin Shaaban was shot and critically wounded on Yonitzman St. in north Tel Aviv. Shaaban, a resident of Ramle, succumbed to his wounds a short time later. Police are examining a potential link between Shaaban's murder and the Dizengoff shooting.

The father of the suspected assailant, who originally contacted police about his son's alleged involvement, 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."

The local council of the suspected assailant's community also condemned the attack, and expressed condolences to the victims' families. "The local council and the village's residents strongly condemn the shooting incident and are strongly opposed to any act of violence." The statement added that "this is the case of a man who does not represent the village's residents," stressing that the incident was "foreign to our culture and the village's culture."

The attack, which took place at the Simta pub on Dizengoff Street, killed two people, who were identified as Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 30. Two of the wounded evacuated to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv were in serious condition. Their condition has stabilized but remains serious.

Bakal's funeral will be held on Sunday at 3:00 P.M. in Carmiel. Ruimi's funeral will be held on Sunday at 3:00 P.M. in Ofakim.