Nashat Melhem: Suspect named in Tel Aviv bar shooting

Israeli police have released details of the suspect believed to be responsible for an attack which left two dead

A man who opened fire on a street in Tel Aviv, killing two and injuring several others last Friday, has been named as Nashat Melhem.

Melhem, 29, is believed to be from the village of Arara in northern Israel. The Haaretz newspaper has reported that he stole his weapon from his father, who contacted the authorities after seeing the attack on TV and realised the firearm was missing.

Melhem remains at large. 

While details of the investigation are under a court gagging order, a large manhunt is under way and road blocks have been set up in order to prevent Melhem fleeing to the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the city centre shooting was a "despicable crime of unfathomable cruelty" and called for maximum vigilance from the public.

CCTV footage has shown Melhem browsing products in a health food store next to a bar in Dizengoff Street, a busy thoroughfare in Tel Aviv.  He can then be seen pulling a machine pistol from his bag and spraying bullets at people in the street. 

Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 29 were shot dead while drinking in at the Simta Bar on Dizengoff Street.

Sami Melhem, a relative of the suspect and a lawyer, told Israeli Channel 2 that Melhem was mentally unstable. Sami Melhem has represented Melhem legally in the past, in a case in which he was jailed for assaulting an Israeli soldier. 

Last year saw a number of shootings and other attacks, including using cars, perpetrated on Israeli civilians by radicalised Palestinians.

While the Israeli-Arab population, many of whom are Muslim, often sympathise with the Palestinians, they have rarely engaged in conflict with the Israeli state or its people.

The idea that this was not a Palestinian militant attack was referred to in a police statement: "This is an extreme, complex and unique event in which an armed individual embarked on an indiscriminate killing spree in the heart of a busy street," said police spokeswoman Luba Samri.

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