The gun used by alleged killer Nashat Milhem in a January 1 shooting spree on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street had been confiscated by police and was only returned to Milhem’s father Muhammad two months ago, a TV report said.
Nashat Milhem allegedly took the weapon from a safe at the Milhem home in Arara, northern Israel, before he set off to carry out the attack in which two Israelis were killed and several others injured.
The gun was confiscated in 2014 by officers of the Iron Police Station in northern Israel, and was returned to Muhammad Milhem two months ago, Channel 2 said. It was held by police after a complaint was filed from a man who said he had been threatened with the weapon by a member of the Milhem family.
The weapon is a Falcon sub-machine gun, which is hardly available in Israel, Channel 2 said. A weapons expert said there were perhaps 10 like it in the country. On Friday, the weapon was initially misidentified as an improved Carl Gustav gun.
Muhammad Milhem works as a security guard, and is also a police volunteer.
He contacted local police on Friday afternoon after watching security footage of the Dizengoff Street attack, and recognizing his son as the gunman.
On Saturday, he urged security forces on Saturday to detain his son as soon as possible, fearing that he would strike again.
“What is important to me now is that they reach my son and arrest him, because he is still armed,” the Ynet news website quoted Muhammad as saying. “And just as he murdered two people, he can murder more.”
He added: “I am worried and I want to hear that he is in police hands.”
The 29-year-old gunman has been on the run since the attack on the bustling Dizengoff Street on Friday afternoon.
Police urged the Israeli public Saturday to be on the alert, and to report any suspicious individual to them.
Milhem’s father was questioned by police on Friday evening, and computers and other items in the family home were seized by police as part of the investigation into the attack.
One relative was reportedly being held by police.
Ahmed Milhem, a relative, said Friday that the suspect stole his father’s weapon from a safe at their home.
There was a huge police presence outside the family home on Saturday.
The father told reporters Saturday that “I am an Israeli citizen, a law-abiding citizen. I heard what my son has done, and I am sorry. I did not educate him to act in that way. I went to the police and helped the security forces. I did not expect that my son would do such a thing.”
He expressed his sorrow to the families of the victims, and said he hoped those who were injured would make full recoveries.
He also said his son had psychological issues.
The local council in the village of Arara, where the gunman’s family lives, on Saturday issued a strong condemnation of the attack.
“The council and villagers harshly condemn the shooting incident that occurred on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon, and strongly oppose any acts of violence,” the statement said.
“The council makes clear that this is the action of one man and is not representative of the village, and stresses that the incident is alien to our culture and the culture of the village.
“The council and village residents send our condolences to the families of those killed, and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded,” the statement concluded.
The killer served a five-year term from 2007 after attacking a soldier with a screwdriver and trying to grab his gun. That crime, Channel 2 reported Friday, had its origins in an incident in 2006, when Nashat Milhem’s cousin was killed by an Israeli policeman. The cousin had been storing weapons for an intended terror attack, police believed, and approval was given for a raid on the cousin’s home. The cousin was indeed found to have weaponry and, in the course of the raid, brandished a gun. A policeman, believing himself to be threatened, fired on the cousin and killed him.
The police internal investigation’s department probed the killing, and brought a manslaughter case against the policeman. But the case was shoddily prepared, the TV report said, and was dismissed by Haifa District Court. Subsequently, the TV report said, the Tel Aviv killer sought to avenge his cousin’s death, and that was why he attacked the soldier.
A relative of the suspect, Sami Milhem, who also served as his lawyer, said Friday that Milhem was “not of sound mind.”