The funeral of gunman Nashat Milhem, who killed three people in a shooting spree in Tel Aviv on January 1, was held Tuesday night in his hometown of Arara, in northern Israel. The event was a low-key one, with only a small number of participants from Milhem’s family taking part.
Some 80 people were estimated to have taken part.
Milhem’s father Mohammed, who is under house arrest, did not attend. Security sources said he would have been allowed to do so, but chose not to.
Authorities had held off on releasing Milhem’s body, fearing a mass funeral that could escalate into riots. Police demanded the ceremony be attended by no more than 40 people.
Milhem’s family had anticipated burying the gunman at a small ceremony on Sunday. However, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan instructed the Israel Police to delay the return of the body, for fear that the ceremony would be hijacked by extremist groups.
“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 had 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.”
On Tuesday it was revealed that Milhem, who after the killings had fled north and hid in Arara, at one point left his hideout with an accomplice to purchase cigarettes, but it was days before the store employees — who recognized him as the killer — reported to police that they had seen him.
According to a Channel 2 report, Milhem was receiving food and cigarettes from an accomplice in Arara. On one occasion, he went out with him to a store to buy cigarettes, his face partially hidden.
The store employees identified Milhem, but chose to sell him the cigarettes anyway, and several days later turned to the police to report the incident. They were later arrested for sitting on the information, with their attorneys playing up the fact that they eventually did come to the police and ultimately aided security forces in tracking the fugitive down. He was shot dead on January 8 in a gun-battle with security forces who had come to arrest him.
The Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday extended the remand of five Arara residents suspected of aiding Milhem either before or after he gunned down two men in a bar and went on to kill a taxi driver in Tel Aviv. The attack has widely been acknowledged as an act of terrorism.
In the days following the shooting, Milhem’s father Mohammed and brothers Juadat and Ali, together with five other relatives and friends, were arrested on suspicion of premeditated manslaughter, being an accessory to murder, illegal association and conspiracy to commit a crime.
On Sunday, a relative of Milhem was remanded into custody for seven days on suspicion of playing “a central role” in the murders, with police saying they had “strong evidence” connecting him to the shooting.
Later on Sunday, Milhem’s father, Mohammed, and brothers were released from detention with limitations placed on their movement.
Last week, 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.
Milhem was killed in the shootout a week after he killed three Israelis — Alon Bakal, Shimon Ruimi and Amin Shaaban — in Tel Aviv on January 1 and then fled a massive police manhunt to hide in his hometown. According to officials, he was not affiliated with any organized terror group, but is believed to have been motivated by a jihadist ideology.