Tel Aviv shooter identified as Arab-Israeli with history of violence

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The shooter in the attack on a bar full of patrons in central Tel Aviv that killed two has been named by police as an Arab-Israeli man with a history of violence.

The attacker was named as Nashat Melhem, 31, of Arara, a village in Wadi Ara in northern Israel. A gag order was lifted on his identity on Saturday evening.

Melhem’s father, a volunteer policeman, called police Friday after seeing security camera footage of the attack on television and recognizing his son. Melhem’s brother, Jaudat, was arrested Friday on suspicion of being an accessory to the crime, according to reports.

Two people were killed and several injured on Friday afternoon when the shooter opened fire in a pub in central Tel Aviv located next to the popular Dizengoff Center Mall. The area was full of people enjoying what is a weekend afternoon in Israel.

Melham received a five-year jail sentence in 2007 for attacking a soldier and attempting to seize his gun. He said at the time that he was attempting to avenge the death of his cousin, killed in 2006 in a police raid. Melhem also was arrested prior to his jailing for selling drugs. According to the family attorney, he suffers from mental disorders.

As of Saturday night, Melhem was still on the loose as a massive manhunt continued to capture him. Schools in Tel Aviv were scheduled to open as usual on Sunday, though Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said children whose parents did not send them to school would not be penalized.

Leaders of the Arab-Israeli community in Wadi Ara condemned the attack.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of the attack on Saturday night. Standing amid a makeshift memorial to the victims of the attack, including dozens of memorial candles, sent condolences to the families of the victims of what he called a “heinous and unbelievably vicious murder,” and wishes for a quick recovery to the injured. He called on the public to be on “maximum alert.”

“I appreciate the condemnations of the crime that have been made by the Arab public. I must say that I expect all Arab MKs, all of them without exception, to clearly condemn the murder without hesitation. Murder is murder, and must be condemned and acted against from whatever quarter,” Netanyahu said.

The prime minister also acknowledged what he called “wild radical Islamic incitement against the State of Israel in the Arab sector.”

“There is incitement in mosques, in the educational system and in social media,” he said. “I am not prepared to accept two States of Israel, a state of law for most of its citizens and a state within a state for some of them, in enclaves in which there is no law enforcement and in which there is Islamist incitement, rampant crime and illegal weapons that are frequently fired at events such as weddings. This era has ended.”

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