Many schoolchildren in Tel Aviv-Jaffa stayed away from school Sunday morning, as a new week opened in the shadow of a shooting attack that killed two Israelis and wounded seven on Friday.
The suspected shooter, identified by police as Nashat Milhem, a 29-year-old resident of Arara, an Arab village in northern Israel, remained at large as thousands of police entered a third day of searches.
According to the municipality, about one-half of the schoolchildren in northern Tel Aviv were kept home by worried parents. In central neighborhoods of the coastal metropolis, some 30% of children stayed away from school. A lower figure — some 10% — of students remained home in the southern parts of the city, which is characterized by poorer neighborhoods.
Milhem, an Israeli Arab who has previously spent five years in prison for a 2007 attack on a soldier, is suspected of opening fire in a cafe in central Tel Aviv, killing two people and injuring six. The two victims who were shot dead were Alon Bakal, a manager at the venue, and 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi from Ofakim, who was one of five long-time friends celebrating a birthday together.
Security sources said late Saturday that the suspect was “armed and dangerous.”
An item belonging to Milhem was found in north Tel Aviv that might help identify his movements after the shooting, police said Sunday without elaboration. There is a growing belief that he was responsible, too, for the killing of a taxi driver, who was found dead in north Tel Aviv an hour after the attack.
According to Hebrew media reports, authorities believe their best chance for catching Milhem is to wait for him to venture out of his hiding place in order to get food or attempt to find transportation.
The suspect’s father, a police volunteer, recognized his son in video footage of the attack, and called the police. A relative, Ahmed Milhem, said the suspect also stole his father’s weapon from a safe at their home.
The suspect’s brother, Jaudat, was arrested Friday on suspicion of involvement in the crime, authorities said Saturday. His remand was extended Sunday.
A new security camera video released Saturday showed Milhem walking calmly along Dizengoff Street minutes before the attack. Earlier footage showed him in a health food store, and stepping out to carry out the attack.
Security forces were conducting extensive searches for Milhem, as police bolstered its presence on the streets of Tel Aviv.
Ahmed Milhem urged his cousin to turn himself in. The suspect’s father was questioned by police late Friday.
In his home village of Arara, the attack was widely condemned.