Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Monday that Israel will not release the body of Nashat Milhem until the family agrees to demands that it ensure the funeral does not celebrate his actions.
Milhem, an Israeli Arab from the northern town of Arara, opened fire on a Tel Aviv pub on January 1, killing two. He then fled, killing a cab driver as he made his way back to his hometown, where he hid from authorities until last Friday, when he was killed in a shootout with police.
“When the family complies with the demands of the Israel Police, which are intended to ensure that the terrorist’s funeral does not turn into a rally in support of terror and incitement to further attacks — the body will be released,” Erdan said in a statement.
“If that doesn’t happen,” he added, “the release will be delayed until we can be sure these conditions are met.”
Erdan on Sunday instructed the Israel Police to delay the return of the Milhem’s body to his family for burial.
Milhem’s family had prepared to bury him Sunday afternoon in Arara, but Erdan, who oversees the police, instructed that the body be withheld.
Several members of the Milhem family are being investigated on suspicion of aiding Nashat’s week-long escape from police. According to officials, he was not affiliated with any organized terror group, but is believed to have been motivated by a jihadist ideology.
One relative was remanded into custody for seven days on Sunday on suspicion of playing “a central role” as an accomplice in the January 1 killings.
Several suspects who may helped the gunman evade arrest have not yet been found, police said.
Milhem’s father, Mohammed, and brother Ali, who were in police custody as suspected accomplices, were released Sunday to house arrest.
In the days following the shooting, Milhem’s father and brothers Juadat and Ali, together with five other relatives and friends, were arrested on charges of premeditated manslaughter, being an accessory to murder, illegal association and conspiracy to commit a crime. The next day, Juadat was released from prison, but ordered not to return home.
While Milhem’s family immediately condemned his actions and urged he turn himself in, some local residents told media that his relatives had known where he was hiding all along.
On Monday, police found DNA evidence indicating Milhem was in his hometown of Arara, and he was eventually tracked to an abandoned house in the town.
The structure was surrounded on Friday afternoon, and according to police, Milhem spotted the forces converging upon him. He fired on them from the window of the apartment, fled the building, and ran some 200 meters before he was gunned down by security forces. The forces had been ordered to take him alive if possible.