Tel Aviv pub shooting: PM vows crackdown

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statment to the media during a visit to the scene of a shooting incident in Tel Aviv, Israel on Jan 2.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statment to the media during a visit to the scene of a shooting incident in Tel Aviv, Israel on Jan 2. PHOTO: REUTERS

TEL AVIV • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the murder of two people in Tel Aviv by a gunman suspected of being an Arab Israeli, pledging a crackdown on crime in that community.

A man whom police identified as Nashaat Melhem, 31, opened fire at a pub on New Year's Eve, killing two and wounding seven others.

Police said the suspect was from the Arab village of Arara in northern Israel. They distributed his picture and encouraged public vigilance as a manhunt continued.

The shooting came amid a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis. While police said there was a "strong possibility that this was a terrorist attack", Mr Netanyahu did not define it as such.

"There was a despicable murder here yesterday, incomprehensible cruelty," he said on Saturday after lighting a candle outside the pub.

Mr Netanyahu said he had, along with security officials, formulated a plan to "dramatically increase law enforcement in the Arab sector".

"You can't say 'I'm an Israeli in my rights and a Palestinian in my duties'. Whoever wants to be an Israeli has to be one all the way, in rights and duties, and the first duty is to obey the country's law," he said.

Arab Israelis are those who remained in the Jewish state after its 1948 creation, and their descendants. They account for more than 17 per cent of the population and often complain of discrimination.

Yesterday, Israeli prosecutors filed murder charges against a man and a minor for an arson attack in the occupied West Bank that killed three members of a Palestinian family and fuelled the fiercest eruption of street violence in years.

But defence lawyers said the pair had given false confessions under torture, an allegation denied by Mr Netanyahu.

The attack and ensuing Israeli investigation exposed fissures in Mr Netanyahu's coalition government, where one ultra-nationalist partner voiced misgivings about the handling of Jewish suspects.

Thirteen other Israeli Jews, most of them minors, were also indicted for hate crimes, including assaulting a Palestinian, vandalism of Arab property and setting fire to a church.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2016, with the headline 'Tel Aviv pub shooting: PM vows crackdown'. Print Edition | Subscribe