Store owners arrested for failing to report Nashat Milhem to police over several days; court extends remand of five alleged accomplices

A man suspected of aiding fugitive gunman Nashat Milhem is brought before the Haifa Magistrate's Court on January  9 , 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)
A man suspected of aiding fugitive gunman Nashat Milhem is brought before the Haifa Magistrate’s Court on January 9 , 2016 (screen capture: Channel 2)


Nashat Milhem, who killed three people in a shooting spree in Tel Aviv before fleeing north and seeking shelter, 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 Tuesday, Milhem was receiving food and cigarettes from an accomplice in his hometown of Arara, where he was hiding out. 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 on January 1. The attack has widely been acknowledged as an act of terrorism.

Israeli authorities on Tuesday were still holding off on releasing Milhem’s body, fearing a mass funeral that could escalate into riots. According to a report in the Walla news site, police were demanding the ceremony be attended by no more than 40 people. Police were planning to increase security around the ambulance that would transport Milhem’s remains to the funeral, amid concerns that his supporters could abduct his body from the vehicle and hold a larger funeral, the report said.

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, Muhammed, and brothers were released from detention with limitations placed on their movement.

Milhem’s family had anticipated burying the gunman at a small ceremony. 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.

Nashat Milhem, the Arab Israeli man who carried out the shooting attack in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016. (Israel Police)
Nashat Milhem, the Arab Israeli man who carried out the shooting attack in Tel Aviv on January 1, 2016. (Israel Police)

Hours after the shootings on January 1, Mohammed Milhem went to local police and told them he had recognized his son as the gunman from TV broadcasts of security camera footage of the attack.

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.

As reported by The Times of Israel