Security assessment: Gunman from Tel Aviv shooting believed to be armed, hiding

Shooting suspect's family has called on him to turn himself into authorities as large-scale manhunt continues for gunman.

Israeli border police guards secure near the scene of a shooting incident in Tel Aviv (photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli border police guards secure near the scene of a shooting incident in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The gunman who carried out Friday's shooting attack in central Tel Aviv is believed to be armed and hiding, according to the most recent security estimate Saturday morning.

The possibility remained that the attacker, who was still at large, was assisted in fleeing Tel Aviv. However, Channel 2 reported that police believed the attacker was still in the city and security forces were searching abandoned warehouses and construction sites. A massive manhunt for the suspected perpetrator of the deadly shooting attack on Tel Aviv's Dizengoff Street continued on Saturday morning.Security forces and family members of the main suspect in the shooting were attempting to contact the man thought to be the perpetrator.Two people were killed and seven more were wounded when the 28-year-old gunman, a native of the Israeli Arab village of Arara, opened fire on a bar and a cafe on the central Tel Aviv thoroughfare.  The suspect's family has called on him to turn himself into authorities. The suspect's named remained under gag order. Police swat teams and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Authority) conducted sweeps in the central Gush Dan region throughout the night. Security forces on Friday also descended on the home in northern Israel's Wadi Ara area belonging to the family of the suspect in the New Year's Day attack. One of the fatalities of Friday's shooting attack in central Tel Aviv was identified as Alon Bakal, 26, a shift manager at the 'HaSimta' pub which took the brunt of the gunfire on Dizengoff Street. The other fatality in the attack was Shimon Roemee from Ofakim. In camera footage of the attack, the gunman was seen pulling his weapon from a backpack and aiming the rifle at passersby and at pub patrons.   The suspect's name remained withheld from publication under a court gag order.The Shin Bet questioned the suspect's father, who reportedly contacted the police after recognizing his son in security footage broadcast on television following the attack. The father told police that he received an anonymous phone call from someone who told him to check if his licensed firearm, which he uses as a guard in a security firm, was in possession at his home. He checked and found his firearm but then realized that it may have been his son, the suspected shooter, who made the anonymous call. Police emphasized that all leads were being pursued. On Friday evening the suspect's Facebook page was removed from the Internet.The prospect of links to Islamic State ideology was thought to be among theories being investigated as possible motivation behind the attack. But a family attorney, Sami Melhem told Israeli television on Friday that the suspect is emotionally unstable and not an adherent of Islamic State."He is not sane. Lately he has been wandering around in a strange manner," Melhem told The Jerusalem Post's Hebrew sister publication Ma'ariv on Friday. Channel 10 reported that the suspect's cousin was killed in a police raid some ten years ago when he was found to be storing weapons. The suspect himself also has a criminal past and was known to security authorities. He previously served a four-year jail sentence for fighting with a soldier and trying to steal his weapon.  A copy of the Koran was reportedly found inside the gunman's backpack which he left at the health food store that he visited immediately before he carried out the attack, according to Channel 10. In a separate incident on Friday afternoon, a taxi driver was shot to death in northern Tel Aviv.The victim was identified as resident of the central Israeli town of Lod.The police were investigating the circumstances of the killing.
Alon Hochman contributed to this report.