Father of alleged TA gunman detained for another 3 days
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Father of alleged TA gunman detained for another 3 days

Mohammed Milhem suspected of helping his son, as uncle and another suspect released and manhunt winds down in Tel Aviv

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Mohammed Milhem at the Haifa Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)
Mohammed Milhem at the Haifa Magistrate's Court on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 (Channel 2 screenshot)

Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Thursday remanded for three additional days the father of a fugitive Arab Israeli suspected of killed two people in a Tel Aviv bar on Friday, before going on to murder a cab driver whose taxi he hailed to make his escape.

Mohammed Milhem, the father of 29-year-old Nashat Milhem, was arrested and questioned Tuesday along with five others. He is suspected of being an accessory to the murder, and of obstructing the investigation. The court had originally given a two-day extension on the father’s detention.

Tuesday’s arrest marked the second time that Mohammed Milhem has been detained since the attack.

On Monday, Mohammed Milhem had made a televised plea to his son to turn himself in. “Contact me,” he said, appealing directly to his son. “I will help you. Let’s end this saga. These are difficult days for the family.”

On Wednesday, Juadat Milhem, the suspect’s brother, repeated that plea after he was freed from police custody.

Hours after the killing last Friday, it was the father who went to local police and told them he had recognized his son as the gunman from TV broadcasts of security camera footage of the attack. Police believe Nashat Milhem used his father’s gun in the killings.

Israeli security forces search for the gunman who had shot Israeli civilians at a pub in central Tel Aviv, on Friday, January 1, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israeli security forces search for the gunman who had shot Israeli civilians at a pub in central Tel Aviv, on Friday, January 1, 2016. (Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Earlier Thursday, the suspected killer’s uncle and an East Jerusalem contractor — both arrested on suspicion of being involved in the attack — were released from police custody. The contractor, whose name was not released for publication, said he had nothing at all to do with the attack.

In the wake of the arrests, attorney Nechami Feinblatt, who represents the Milhem family, said that his clients had nothing to do with the attack, and that their arrest was a tactic being used by the security services in their search for Milhem.

“This is police helplessness,” he told Channel 2 on Tuesday. “In the end they will arrest the whole family. The Shin Bet [security service] is under pressure. No one in the family has any connection to what the son did.”

Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)
Alon Bakal, 26, was killed in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Police allege Milhem opened fire with a submachine gun at the Simta Bar on Tel Aviv’s central Dizengoff Street on Friday afternoon, killing 26-year-old Alon Bakal and 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi and injuring seven others. He then allegedly fired into two other establishments, fled the scene on foot, hailed a cab, and rode to north Tel Aviv, where he killed the driver before abandoning the vehicle.

After officially naming Milhem as the alleged killer of the driver, Amin Shaaban, 42, some 60 minutes after the bar attack, police on Thursday reported that they suspect Milhem disconnected the cab’s internal monitoring cameras before killing him.

Shimon Ruimi, 30, from the southern town of Ofakim, had traveled to Tel Aviv for a friend's birthday when he was killed in a shooting attack in the city on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)
Shimon Ruimi, 30, from the southern town of Ofakim, had traveled to Tel Aviv for a friend’s birthday when he was killed in a shooting attack in the city on January 1, 2016 (photo via Facebook)

Channel 10 quoted police as saying that there was no footage found on the cameras from Milhem’s suspected trip in the cab and Shaaban’s killing.

Raazi Shaaban, the taxi driver’s brother, accused authorities Wednesday of failing to update the family on developments in the investigation into his brother’s killing.

“The police did not update us in any way,” Shaaban told Channel 2, adding that the family had only heard from the media that Milhem was also wanted in connection with his brother’s killing, although they had suspected he had been the killer.

Shaaban also criticized officials for not coming to visit the family as it was mourning Amin’s loss. “They went north [to victim Bakal’s family in Karmiel] and south [to Ruimi’s family in Ofakim], and in between they couldn’t stop by our place?” Raazi said.

Amin Shaaban, a 42-year-old cab driver from Lod who was murdered in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (Channel 2 news)
Amin Shaaban, a 42-year-old cab driver from Lod who was murdered in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016 (Channel 2 news)

Still, he expressed support for the law enforcement in the case. “The police could have told us earlier, but this is their job,” he said. “We can’t interfere in their work when it could jeopardize other things. I believe that they know how to do their job very well, both the police and the Shin Bet.”

As of Thursday, police were assessing that it was likely Milhem, the suspected shooter, has been hiding out in the West Bank, although most details of the search for him remain under gag order.

Feinblatt, the Milhem family’s attorney, said Tuesday that Mohammed Milhem, the father, believes that his son is in the West Bank.

On Tuesday, Israel’s police chief Roni Alsheich, indicated that the suspect was no longer believed to be in Tel Aviv. By Thursday, Channel 2 said, the police search for him in the city had been wound down.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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