Tel Aviv gunman fled scene, hailed cab, killed driver, police believe
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Tel Aviv gunman fled scene, hailed cab, killed driver, police believe

Nashat Milhem still on run after Friday shootings; police says he’s armed, dangerous and could strike again

The suspected gunman in Friday's shooting attack in Tel Aviv (Courtesy)
The suspected gunman in Friday's shooting attack in Tel Aviv (Courtesy)

The gunman who shot up a bar in Tel Aviv Friday, killing two, fired into two other establishments, fled the scene on foot, hailed a cab, and rode to north Tel Aviv where he murdered the driver before abandoning the vehicle, police said Sunday.

Police had said earlier they were certain fugitive Nashat Milhem, the suspected perpetrator of the deadly attack in central Tel Aviv, was also responsible for the murder of taxi driver Ayman Shaaban, which took place less than an hour after the first shooting.

According to Hebrew media reports based on police sources late Sunday, Milhem is now known to have fled the scene of the shooting on Dizengoff Street on foot, and hailed a cab on nearby Ibn Gabirol Street. The vehicle drove to north Tel Aviv, where Milhem worked. There, Milhem is alleged to have killed Shaaban outside the Mandarin Hotel. He then drove the cab to Namir Road, where he abandoned it near a bus stop.

Namir is a major north-south artery in north Tel Aviv, from which Milhem could have caught a public bus or other vehicle transportation out of the city.

His mobile phone was found on nearby Reading Street in Ramat Aviv. “And that is the last point of reference for investigators,” the Ynet news site reported.

Since Friday afternoon, Milhem, 29, from Arara in northern Israel, has remained at large. Authorities have warned he is armed, dangerous and capable of striking again.

A schoolgirl from Ramat Aviv discovered Milhem’s cellphone Friday. Some reports said she had found it at 2 p.m. that day — minutes before the attack. But the police information late Sunday suggested that Milhem threw it away after the attack, after his taxi journey to the north of the city.

The girl and her father turned on the phone and it immediately began to ring with calls from mostly Arabic speakers, Ynet said. One of the callers was Milhem’s boss, who was reportedly looking for his employee. The family believed that the phone belonged to an Arab worker employed in the area, and only realized it might be significant to the shooting investigation after Milhem’s name was released on Saturday night.

Milhem still has the sub-machine gun he used in Friday’s attack, and plenty of ammunition, Israel’s Channel 10 quoted police sources saying late Sunday, as the search for him continued into the night. The TV report described Milhem as “a ticking bomb,” who, it was feared, could carry out additional acts of violence including a further shooting attack or an attempt to take civilians hostage.

Police do not have “any kind of a lead” as to his whereabouts, Channel 2 reported. In a statement late Sunday, the police thanked the public for its alertness, and said it could not release details of the investigation for fear of prejudicing the ongoing manhunt.

As more information on the suspect emerged, people who have come into contact with him in recent years described a violent man, quick to take offense.

Security footage shows a suspected Arab Israeli gunman leaving a grocery on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv with a machine gun in hand, seconds before he opened fire and killed two people on January 1, 2016. (screen capture)
Security footage shows a suspected Arab Israeli gunman leaving a grocery on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv with a machine gun in hand, seconds before he opened fire and killed two people on January 1, 2016. (screen capture)

A police officer who guarded Milhem when he was jailed for attacking a soldier with a screwdriver and trying to steal his weapon in 2007 — ostensibly to avenge the killing of a cousin in a police raid — described the alleged killer as a “very problematic” and “violent” individual, who was “full of hatred.” When he heard that Milhem had allegedly carried out Friday’s attack, the police officer said, “I couldn’t believe he’d been set free” after the five-year term to which he was sentenced for attacking the soldier.

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

Sunday’s search for Milhem focused in part on the Ramat Aviv area of north Tel Aviv, where he worked as a vegetable delivery man — for a branch of the same Anise natural foods store he was seen leaving on Dizengoff Street when he began his shooting spree.

“He knew this whole area very well,” said Yoel Galatkin, a store owner in the Ramat Aviv Schuster Center where Milhem worked. “He slept here [in this area] every night.”

Workers in the area who know Milhem disputed his family’s claim that he was not of sound mind, describing him as energetic and focused, albeit quick to take offense. Yigal Markis, owner a nearby dry cleaners, described him as “sociable.”

A report prepared for a drugs rehabilitation center that refused to admit him, shown by Channel 10 news, described him as “easily angered” and prone to believe that he had “superpowers.”

The suspect in the January 1, 2016 shooting attack in Tel Aviv, 29-year-old Nashat Milhem, as seen after a 2007 arrest (Channel 10 news)
The suspect in the January 1, 2016, shooting attack in Tel Aviv, 29-year-old Nashat Milhem, as seen after a 2007 arrest. (Channel 10 news)

Cab driver Shaaban, a Bedouin father of 11 from Lod who worked for a taxi station at Ben Gurion Airport, was laid to rest on Sunday.

The two victims of the Friday Dizengoff Street shooting — Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi — were also buried Sunday, with thousands in attendance. Two people critically injured in the shooting are no longer in danger, according to a report from Ichilov Hospital. One of them has a bullet lodged in his skull, which cannot be removed, the hospital said.

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