JERUSALEM — Israeli police shot and killed an Arab suspect wanted in a New Year’s Day shooting rampage in Tel Aviv that left three people dead and touched off a massive manhunt, authorities said Friday.
Luba Samri, a police spokeswoman, said the suspect, 31-year-old Nashat Melhem, was traced to a village in northern Israel, where he came out firing at security forces. “They returned fire and he was shot on the spot,” said a statement.
Much of the information on the case — including details on Melhem, an Israeli Arab — is under a court-imposed gag order. Authorities have not said whether they believe Melhem acted alone or had a support network.
The motive for the Tel Aviv attack also remains unclear, but it followed months of rising tensions over near daily unrest, including knife attacks by Palestinians and increased Israeli security clampdowns in the West Bank and other areas.
Just hours before Melhem was killed, Israel Radio reported that the imam in Melhem’s home village, Arara, had denounced the attack in his sermon at the mosque.
Even though much of the details of the attack have still not been made public, the families of the two Jewish victims — Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 30 — have called on authorities to declare it a “terrorist attack.”
Immediately after last Friday’s shootings, the police search efforts focused on the neighborhoods of North Tel Aviv, where the taxi of an Israeli Arab was found abandoned. Over the past few days, however, the manhunt moved to mostly Arab towns in northern Israel.