The television network of Palestinian terror group Hamas on Friday evening said Arab Israeli gunman Nashat Milhem “died as a shahid [martyr] from shooting by occupation forces,” after he was killed in a shootout Friday afternoon with officers from the police and Shin Bet security service.
Milhem was killed a week after carrying out a deadly terror attack in Tel Aviv. He was cornered in a building in his home village of Arara, where he had been hiding. The security forces later said they had sought to arrest him and not kill him, but opened fire when he shot at the officers closing in on him.
In its special news broadcast on Milhem, Hamas’s Al-Quds network used an ornate studio that included a mocked up model of the West Bank security barrier, complete with graffiti, Israel’s Channel 10 reported. The background also featured a heap of car tires decorated with a fake flame, a likely reference to the tires that Palestinian protesters often burn during clashes with Israeli security forces.
“The shahid Nashat Milhem was killed after a gunfight between him and occupation forces in the neighborhood of Zahirat in his village,” said the Al-Quds anchor.
The station even sent a reporter to Arara for an outside broadcast. Standing within shouting distance of Israeli reporters speaking in Hebrew, the young reporter interviewed – in Arabic – some of the residents of the village. One of them told the Hamas station that the security forces had behaved violently towards the residents.
“The army attacked us and instructed us with aggression and violence to go inside [our homes] and shooting began. It included 200-300 bullets,” the Arara resident said. The shooting “gave each one of us trauma that will be hard to recover from, and at the end of the day, well, may Allah have mercy on his soul, they killed the shahid.”
Just meters from the interviewee, other Arara residents were speaking in Hebrew to Israeli reporters, condemning Milhem’s actions and rejecting violence. One of those unreservedly condemning the attacks was the former mayor of the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, Mourad Yunes.
The station also showed footage, filmed before Friday’s events, of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh addressing hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza City.
“He went in the streets of Tel Aviv like a brave hero,” Haniyeh said of Milhem, “in order to bring them death.”
Hamas, Channel 10 later said, is desperate to recruit Arab Israelis to its ranks, as they have complete freedom of movement inside Israel.
Israeli security forces are examining whether Milhem may have belonged to a sleeper cell from Islamic State. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said earlier Friday that Milhem’s attack bore the fingerprints of the Islamic State and that he may have been influenced by the terror group.
Israeli security officials have so far avoided making a definite link between Milhem’s actions and the brutal terror group.