Manhunt for Tel Aviv shooter leaves schools, kindergartens half-empty

Israeli authorities scoured the streets of Tel Aviv and neighbouring cities on Sunday in their search for a gunman who killed two people and wounded seven when he opened fire in a crowded bar.

The suspect, an Arab-Israeli, remained at large 48 hours after the Friday afternoon shooting on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv's main avenue.

Classrooms in northern Tel Aviv were half-empty on Sunday, the first day of the school week, with many parents keeping their children home amid unconfirmed reports that the gunman was hiding in the area and still armed.

Other unconfirmed reports said the suspect may be in Bat Yam, a suburb south of Tel Aviv.

A gag order prevented police from further comment.

Police late Saturday identified the suspect as Nashat Melhem, an Israeli citizen in his early 30s from the northern Arab town of Ar'ara, located south-east of Haifa near the West Bank, but inside Israel proper. 

Police called on the public for help in reporting any suspicious "scenario or person" and to remain alert.

Residents in Ar'ara and Melhem's family distanced themselves and condemned the attack, with his father telling reporters he went straight to a police station after he identified his son in news reports on the shooting.

It remained unclear Sunday whether the shooter was a follower of a radical Islamist ideology or had other motives. 

A lawyer and distant relative, Sami Melhem, told reporters he believed his former client was emotionally unstable.

The suspect was previously sentenced to five years in jail for trying to snatch the weapon of a soldier in an attempt to avenge the killing of a cousin by an Israeli police officer during a car-theft-related house raid.

Last update: Sun, 03/01/2016 - 15:04
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