Terrorist Nashat Milhem planned to attack kindergartens in Tel Aviv, police revealed Sunday in a report on the New Year’s Day murder rampage in Tel Aviv.
News of Milhem’s plan to attack daycare centers was included in the six-part police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) investigation. The document detailed controversial aspects of Israel Police’s weeklong manhunt for Milhem.
One fault was not releasing a picture of the terrorist – the most wanted man in the country – until 36 hours after his attack, the report noted.
A second failure was not responding to a witness tip that Milhem was seen heading north on a bus to Wadi Ara shortly after the January 1 killing.
The report determined there were deficiencies in how a police emergency center handled a call by two sisters who reported seeing Milhem fleeing north on a bus hours after the attack. The report said that failure did not impede the police investigation.
According to a senior police official, by then police were already searching for Milhem and his accomplices in Arara.
That said, the official admitted that police only confirmed that Milhem was in the Arab village on Tuesday, meaning that it took five days from when the emergency calls were placed until it was verified the killer was hiding in his Wadi Ara hometown.
The police report documented the failure of emergency call centers in different areas to share information, and said technology must be improved to make the system more efficient.
While the report said police failed to sufficiently inform the public about the ongoing manhunt and how citizens should conduct themselves, it said the delay was a matter of hours, rather than days.
The report also noted it was problematic that no senior police officer at the Dizengoff Street crime scene in Tel Aviv gave a briefing until hours after the Friday attack in which two people were killed and seven wounded. Public and media criticism focused on the fact that it wasn’t until Sunday night, 48 hours later, that police issued a statement.
Five days passed until Israel Police Commissioner Insp.- Gen. Roni Alsheich addressed the public, saying that it was now possible to ease up the dragnet in Tel Aviv. Alsheich’s comments came after police confirmed Milhem was no longer in the city. Even then, that information was omitted in the commissioner’s press statement, which came after days of panic in north Tel Aviv during which many parents kept their children at home out of fear that a terrorist was on the loose.
The police official said Sunday that “a situation where a terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and is not caught is going to create panic regardless.” He added that police remain unsure if Milhem had an accomplice in Tel Aviv who is still on the loose.
Though a photo of Milhem circulated widely on social media days before police released a picture, the report noted police wanted to be certain they were putting out the correct photo. In addition, they initially suspected that Milhem’s brother was responsible for the attack. The report explained away the time gap, saying that the photo circulating on social media was the best available, implying that even if the police had released a picture sooner, it would not have been of a better quality or have helped their investigation.
On January 1, Milhem pulled a submachine gun from a bag and gunned down Alon Bakal and Shimon Ruimi outside Tel Aviv’s Hasimta bar. Fleeing on foot, he flagged down a cab near the scene of the attack. The driver, Amin Sha’aban from Lod, took Milhem to north Tel Aviv. There the terrorist murdered the cab driver, boarded a northbound bus on the coastal highway, and reached Arara.
Milhem was killed there a week later, after firing on police during a raid on his hideout.
He had previously spent four years in prison for assaulting a soldier, and was described as mentally unstable by a former lawyer.
In a video from Milhem’s cellphone that was later released by the Shin Bet, he rants about drugs and alcohol, and touts a murderous jihadist ideology against non-Muslims, Shi’ites, Jews and US President Barack Obama.
Milhem stole a submachine gun for which his father – a former Israel Police volunteer – had a permit. The gun had previously been confiscated by police following a complaint filed by a neighbor whom Milhem allegedly threatened. The weapon was returned after Milhem’s father filed a motion with the court. The gun was kept in a safe at the family house.
A series of villagers from Arara – including relatives of Milhem – have been arrested by police since the attack on suspicion of assisting the terrorist before and after the shooting. Notwithstanding the manhunt for Milhem across central Israel, police later determined that the entire week police were looking for him, he was hiding in Arara, where he was provided with food and other supplies by accomplices.