Netanyahu, Rivlin praise security services for locating Tel Aviv shooter

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli leaders praised the county’s security services for their work in tracking down the gunman who allegedly killed three Israelis more than a week ago in Tel Aviv.

“On behalf of all citizens of Israel, I would like to thank the Israel Police, ISA, and the police special anti-terrorism unit – they did their work professionally, methodically, day and night; they focused on the mission and they achieved it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement released Saturday night.

Nashat Melhem was killed late Friday afternoon in a shootout with police near his home in the Umm al-Fahm area of northern Israel. Israeli forces  had sought to capture Melhem alive, but he had opened fire on them with the machine gun he used in the Tel Aviv attack on Jan. 1.

Police said Melhem, 31, killed two young men when he shot up a bar in central Tel Aviv on Jan. 1 and then murdered a taxi driver who transported him from the scene of the crime.

Melhem had been the target of a massive manhunt in Tel Aviv, which then shifted to Israel’s north.

“All those who would murder Israelis should know that sooner or later we will find them, inside and outside the borders of the State of Israel. No one is immune. We will find the murderers and their accomplices,” Netanyahu also said.

Also on Saturday night, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin expressed his support for the country’s security services ” who worked night and day over the last week – even more so than usual.”

“We will not bow our heads in the face of the depraved terror we are facing in this difficult period. We will continue to choose life, even when in pain, even when the price we pay is heavy and so very difficult,” Rivlin said in the statement.

On Sunday, Melham’s father and brother were released to house arrest. They were being held by police as accomplices in the attacks. Mohammed Melhem, the father of the alleged shooter, identified his son as the shooter in the bar attack hours after it took place, based on security camera footage that was made public.

Residents of Melham’s hometown told Israeli media that Melhem’s family had known that he was hiding in an abandoned home owned by the family since the shooting and that he had been receiving food and other assistance from local residents.

In the Tel Aviv attack, Melhem allegedly killed Alon Bakal, the 26-year-old manager of the targeted Simta bar, and Shimon Ruimi, 30, police said. Six others were wounded. The taxi driver whom Melhem is said to have killed was Amin Shaaban, a 42-year-old Israeli-Arab from Lod who had 11 children.

Melhem is scheduled to be buried in a small, private ceremony on Sunday.

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