'Police examining alleged failure to heed call by witnesses who saw fugitive terrorist'

The comments were the first made by Erdan since Israel Radio reported on Wednesday that two women claimed the police had ignored their calls.

January 28, 2016 16:00
2 minute read.
Terror Israel

Border Police officers secure the scene of the terror attack on Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv, by Nashat Milhem, in which two people were killed, January 1. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The police force is examining its response to a call placed by two people reporting a sighting of fugitive gunman Nashat Milhem hours after his terror attack in Tel Aviv on New Year’s Day, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Thursday.

“I believe the police are examining all that needs to be examined and when this is finished the findings will be brought to the public and to the commissioner and me,” said Erdan. “If there are lessons to learn, then they will be applied.”

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The comments were the first made by Erdan since Israel Radio reported Wednesday that two women told them they were ignored by police after they called the emergency dispatch hotline on a number of occasions to tell police they saw Nashat Milhem on a bus heading north out of Tel Aviv just after the attack.

Police Commissioner Insp.- Gen. Roni Alsheich on Thursday repeated the assertion of police that the information given by the women wouldn’t have affected the operation to find Milhem – who was on the run for a week before he was cornered and killed in his home village in the Wadi Ara region.

“Of course this had no effect whatsoever on our operational decision making, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons that could be learned,” Alsheich said. He added that police did not try to cover up the failure to heed the report by the two witnesses.

It was a different tone than Wednesday evening, when Asst.-Ch. Aharon Aksel told reporters that the affair “is a storm in a teacup.”

For several days after Milhem killed three people in Tel Aviv, police concentrated their search in north Tel Aviv, after learning that Milhem’s cellphone was found in Ramat Aviv the morning of the attack. But just hours after the shooting took place, Milhem was back in his home village, far from the fearful residents of north Tel Aviv, many of whom were afraid to send their children to school for several days.

The police were the target of great public criticism also in the summer of 2014, following the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers in the West Bank. Hotline operators on the evening of the kidnapping failed to heed a call placed by Gil-Ad Shaer, one of the teens, who could be heard whispering in the call “I’ve been kidnapped.”

The recording of the call was only handed over to security forces five hours later.

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