With Tel Aviv gunman on the run, many Israelis keep kids home from school

TEL AVIV, Israel -- For all its years of strife, Israel has rarely seen anything quite like this: an armed, wanted Arab killer on the loose, spreading fear across the land.

See Full Article

Even the most stoic are keeping their children home from school following the deadly daytime shooting at a popular bar on a busy Tel Aviv street that has become among the most unsettling attacks in a three-month wave of violence.

Israelis are used to quickly resuming their daily routines following attacks because assailants are typically captured or killed. But the frantic search for this gunman, whose attack on Friday afternoon was caught on security cameras, has sent jitters across this seaside city.

The unusual escape of the accused gunman, Nashat Milhem, an Arab from northern Israel who is considered to be armed and dangerous, is one of many elements of a case that has left Israelis on edge.

"Everything about this is characterized by uncertainty," said Yossi Melman, a prominent security analyst, adding that the level of planning and sophistication were closer in style to those of Islamic State attackers in Brussels, Paris and California.

"I'm not familiar with an event like this, with an unclear nature that has lasted this long," he said.

The shooting on Tel Aviv's busy Dizengoff Street, which killed two Israeli men and wounded six other people, was recorded on security cameras at a health food store next door.

In the footage, a man with short dark hair, glasses and a black bag over his shoulder is seen scooping up nuts from the shop's bulk food section, putting them in a plastic bag, then emptying them back. He then walks to the store entrance, places his backpack on a shopping cart and takes a gun out of it before stepping outside and opening fire into the bar. He then runs away.

Police say that after tossing his cellphone, Milhem hailed a cab that took him to northern Tel Aviv, where he killed the driver and escaped in the taxi before abandoning it and going off the grid.

Authorities got their first lead when Milhem's father, Mohammed, recognized his son from the closed circuit footage aired on TV. Milhem apparently obtained the licensed semi-automatic weapon he used by stealing it from his father, a security guard. The father condemned the killing and called on his son to turn himself in. Residents of their Arab town, Arara, also quickly denounced the attack.

The brazen shooting comes amid more than three months of almost daily Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. On the Israeli side, 21 people have died, mostly in stabbings and car-ramming attacks. At least 130 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, 90 of them identified by Israel as assailants.

Israel has accused Palestinian leaders and social media sites of inciting the violence. Palestinians say the attacks are the result of frustration over five decades of Israeli military occupation.

Whereas most attackers have been Palestinians from the West Bank or east Jerusalem, Milhem is one of just a handful of Arab citizens of Israel accused of such violence. And, he comes from a family that was well integrated into Israeli society.

Police say they found a Qur'an in his bag, hinting at Islamic inspiration, though family members say he was emotionally unstable and traumatized after a cousin was shot dead in a 2006 police arrest raid. At the time, police said they were searching for weapons and claimed the shooting was in self-defence.

Milhem served time in an Israeli prison after being convicted of attacking a soldier and trying to steal his weapon. But he was also described by residents of the upscale Tel Aviv neighbourhood where he worked as a grocery store delivery man as being so trusted that customers gave him their house keys to make deliveries when they were out.

"I knew him like the back of my hand. He ate and drank and worked with us," a local Israeli vegetable salesman who was not identified told Channel 10 TV. "He was a normal guy. ... People really liked him. And I liked him too."

The suspect's picture is plastered across newspapers and television screens, and police say they are on "heightened alert," with stepped-up security in Tel Aviv, as they conduct their investigation.

With the search stretching into its fourth day, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai implored residents to return to their routines. But the city remained subdued Monday, and attendance at many schools was sparse.

Oren Helman, a resident of Tel Aviv's upscale Ramat Aviv neighbourhood, where the search has focused, said he sent his two young daughters to school, but there were few other parents dropping children off. The few who came to school were not allowed to play outside in the playground.

"The parents who send their kids to school are worried. Those who don't are scared," he said.

Helman said the heightened security in the neighbourhood helped put him at ease, and he didn't want to cave in to violence or cause panic with his children. But he said there were heated discussions among parents on social media over whether their children were safe. Repeated rumours that the gunman has been seen also added to the unease, he said.

Assaf Zamir, a deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, said some neighbourhoods reported only 50 per cent school attendance but he expected the numbers to rise.

"From our experience as days go by, the numbers will fill up and everyone will come back to school," he said. "We have always bounced back."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • How should Canadians respond to the alt-right?

    Canada News CBC News
    Last Friday, Dave Meslin, an activist and organizer in Toronto, launched a Facebook group called Cheesecake Against Nazis. He would later have to clarify that his idea was not associated with Tina Fey's joke about eating cake in response to white supremacist rallies like the Aug. Source
  • 'Disgusting behaviour' caught on video at fast food restaurant in Red Deer, Alta.

    Canada News CBC News
    If you're a germaphobe or just easily grossed out, you may want to take a deep breath before reading on. The co-franchisee of a Carl's Jr. in central Alberta was temporarily barred from his own restaurant's kitchen after a host of unhygienic behaviours that even "shocked" a public health inspector. Source
  • As Ottawa mulls shorter election campaigns, here's how they would have changed history

    Canada News CBC News
    The Liberals, elected at the end of one of Canada's longest election campaigns, are considering imposing a 43-day limit on future races. Had the 2015 election period been limited to just over six weeks, however, the Liberals might not be in power today. Source
  • The Rebel, Breitbart on federal advertising 'blacklist' of websites

    Canada News CBC News
    The extreme-right outlets The Rebel, Breitbart and the Daily Stormer are among more than 3,000 websites on an internal "blacklist" to ensure the federal government's digital advertisements do not appear on sites promoting hate, porn, gambling and other subjects deemed unacceptable. Source
  • Photos suggest North Korea building new solid-fuel missile designs

    World News CTV News
    TOKYO - North Korea's state media released photos Wednesday that appear to show the designs of one or possibly two new missiles. Concept diagrams of the missiles were seen hanging on a wall behind leader Kim Jong Un while he visited a plant that makes solid-fuel engines for the country's ballistic-missile program. Source
  • DNA of headless torso matches Swedish journalist believed killed in amateur submarine

    World News CBC News
    Danish police said Wednesday that DNA tests from a headless torso found in the Baltic Sea matches with missing Swedish journalist Kim Wall, who is believed to have died on an amateur-built submarine that sank earlier this month. Source
  • Hong Kong shuts down as Typhoon Hato sweeps past

    World News CTV News
    HONG KONG - A powerful typhoon barrelled into Hong Kong on Wednesday, forcing offices and schools to close and leaving flooded streets, shattered windows and hundreds of cancelled flights in its wake. Typhoon Hato came within 60 kilometres of Hong Kong, close enough to be considered a direct hit under Hong Kong's storm warning system. Source
  • Hong Kong shut down by most powerful storm to hit territory in 5 years

    World News CBC News
    A powerful typhoon barrelled into Hong Kong on Wednesday, forcing offices and schools to close and leaving flooded streets, shattered windows and hundreds of cancelled flights in its wake. Typhoon Hato came within 60 kilometres of Hong Kong, close enough to be considered a direct hit under Hong Kong's storm warning system. Source
  • Iran extends reach with fight for link to Mediterranean

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT - Thousands of Iranian-backed fighters in Syria's central desert region are advancing east, bringing Tehran closer to its goal of securing a corridor from its border, through Iraq and all the way to the Mediterranean and providing it unhindered land access to its allies in Syria and Lebanon for the first time. Source
  • Protests turn unruly after Trump's speech in Phoenix

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX -- A day of noisy but largely peaceful protests of U.S. President Donald Trump’s speech in Phoenix turned unruly as police fired pepper spray at crowds after someone apparently lobbed rocks and bottles at officers. Source