Kindergartens Were in Melhem’s Attack Plan, Says Shin Bet

YERUSHALAYIM -

Kindergartens in Tel Aviv were on the hit list of terrorist Nashat Melhem, it emerged from the police investigation on Sunday.

The intention to target the kindergartens was included in a 6-part report compiled in conjunction with the Shin Bet and sent to reporters on Sunday.

Most of the report addressed allegations that police handling of the manhunt had been deficient, in particular a lag of 36 hours from the time of the three murders on January 1 until a photo of Melhem was made public to facilitate locating him. They explained, though, that caution was required to be certain they were putting out the right picture, to avoid any case of mistaken identity.

Police admitted to deficiencies in how the 100 dispatch center handled calls from two sisters hours after the attack, who said they saw Melhem heading north to Wadi Ara on a bus, but that this didn’t affect the outcome of the search.

By that time, police were already searching for Melhem and his accomplices in his Wadi Ara village of Ar’ara. However, it was noted that it took five days after the emergency calls were placed that they were able to confirm he was in the village.

The authorities also admitted they were slow in informing the public about the attack in Tel Aviv. On the day of the shooting, no police briefing was given by a senior officer at the scene of the attack until hours later.

The report answered the criticism that it took five days before National Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich announced that it was possible to ease up on the pressure in Tel Aviv. Alsheich’s comment came after police were able to confirm Melhem was no longer in Tel Aviv. He did not mention that in his statement to the press, which came after days of panic in the Tel Aviv area, during which many parents kept their children out of school 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,” and added that they were still unsure if he had an accomplice still on the loose in Tel Aviv.

Melhem was killed a week later, after he reportedly fired on police during a raid on his hideout in Ar’ara.