Tel Aviv gunman likely killed third person while on the run

The gunman who shot dead two people at a Tel Aviv bar last week likely killed a third person while fleeing the scene, police said Monday.

Suspect Nashat Melhem, in his 30s and from an Arab town in northern Israel, who shot up a bar in central Tel Aviv on Friday, fled the scene on foot. 

He then hailed a taxi to ride to the north of the city and allegedly killed the driver.

Police had said Friday that a taxi driver was found near death in the sand dunes of northern Tel Aviv about an hour after the shooting. But they were not sure at the time that the two incidents were related. 

"There is a belief that [the driver's death] is indeed related," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed Monday.

He said the suspect is probably still armed and might strike again.

Two men were killed in the bar and seven people were injured following the shooting on Tel Aviv's main central avenue.

The suspect apparently killed the driver near a hotel by the shore and abandoned the cab at a nearby main north-south artery, from where he may have found transportation out of the city.

But search efforts continued to focus on north Tel Aviv, where large numbers of police forces were seen in the streets.

The gunman's motives remain unclear. A lawyer and relative told reporters his former client was emotionally unstable.

The owner of a shop near the north Tel Aviv vegetable store where the suspect had worked said he seemed "utterly normal." 

Police have not ruled out radical Islamist ideology as the motive.

Citing a gag order, the police spokesman would not comment on reports that two of Melhem's brothers had been detained for questioning. The family has distanced itself from and vehemently condemned the shooting, saying they are law-abiding citizens.

Melhem's father made an appeal on Monday for his son to turn himself in.

"If you hear this, call me as soon as possible I may be able to help you," Mohammed Ali Melhem said in Arabic, speaking to reporters in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa.

Speaking earlier in Hebrew, he condemned the attack and wished a quick recovery to the injured and condolences to the families of the two killed. 

"It is not our way to carry out terrorism or an attack in Israel," he said.

Some 20 per cent of Israel's population of 8 million are Arabs.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry says that Palestinians have launched an unprecedented 99 knife attacks and some three dozen shootings against Israelis since early October.

Of those, nearly all were allegedly carried out by Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Some 142 Palestinians - many of them alleged knife attackers - and 23 Israelis have been killed in the wave of violence.

Last update: Mon, 04/01/2016 - 17:48
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