Police in Israel are on a manhunt for a 29-year-old Israeli-Arab man suspected of going on a shooting spree outside a Tel Aviv bar that killed two people and left eight others injured. Police have identified Nashat Melhem as the suspect in Friday's (1 December) rampage.
Police said a door-to-door search was on in Tel Aviv for Nashat Melhem who hails from the country's northern village of Arara. Roadblocks have been set up in order to stop the suspect from slipping into the West Bank. Details regarding the investigation and the manhunt have not been made public due to a court order.
"This is an extreme, complex and unique event in which an armed individual embarked on an indiscriminate killing spree in the heart of a busy street," police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement, which was quoted by Reuters.
The suspect was captured by security camera at a grocery store next to the bar before he pulled out a machine pistol from his backpack and started shooting indiscriminately. Two killed at the Simta Bar on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv have been identified as Israelis Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 29.
Sami Melhem, the suspect's uncle and a lawyer, said he called authorities after he recognised his nephew in surveillance footage. He said his nephew was suffering from a mental illness. Melhem's family members said he was earlier imprisoned for assaulting a police officer.
After visiting the crime scene, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the shooting a "despicable crime of unfathomable cruelty" and asked the public to remain vigilant. He added the manhunt was like searching for "a needle in a haystack".
"We will dramatically increase law enforcement services in the Arab sector. We will open new police stations and recruit more officers, go into all the town[s] and demand of everyone loyalty to the laws of the state," Netanyahu said.
In the past 12 months of violence, at least 130 Palestinians and 21 Israelis have been killed. Moreover, the peace talks between Israel and Palestine have come to halt without any signs of progress.