On Friday, January 1, 2016, the Israeli city of Tel Aviv was rocked by terror as Nasha’at Melhem, a 31 year old Israeli citizen of Palestinian origin, embarked on a shooting spree along the bustling and popular Dizengoff Street.
The majority of the gunfire took place in a popular bar located in Tel Aviv called Ha’Simta. According to camera surveillance collected from a health food store within the vicinity of the bar, from which Melhem fired shots, Melhem had a backpack which he placed in a shopping cart near the store entrance as he exited. As he put the backpack down, he withdrew a Spectre M4 Falcon submachine gun. After taking out his weapon, he fired at civilians passing by, as well as customers and employees inside Ha’Simta. Seven individuals were wounded, while Ha’Simta’s shift manager, Alon Bakal, and Ofakim native, Shimon Ruime were killed. Melhem fled from the area before Israeli authorities could reach the scene. In the process of returning to his home in the northern Arab village of Arara, Melhem shot a taxi driver, Amin Sha’aban, near the Mandarin Hotel in Tel Aviv, and used another car to drive up north. Within two hours of committing the attacks, Melhem returned to Arara to hide. Meanwhile, residents of the Arab village reported to media of their knowledge of Melhem and their call for Melhem to turn himself in to the Israeli police.
Israeli armed forces set out to find Melhem that same Friday, and continued the search into Saturday. He was not found until Friday, January 8, when Israel’s Security Agency and unit of counter terrorists found him hiding in a structure within the town of Wadi Ara. In an attempt to escape, Melhem ran out of the building and shot at Israeli officers. The Shin Bet returned gunfire and killed him. No Israeli forces were killed in the shooting.
Funeral services for Bakal, Ruime, and Sha’aban were held in the days following the January 1 attack. In the days leading up to Ha’Simta’s reopening, regular customers and Tel Aviv residents placed candles outside the bar in an act of support and solidarity with those whose lives were lost. On January 8, Ha’Simta officially reopened its doors to customers with security present. Customers found relief in the bar management’s decision to be up and running once again, as it would allow for civilians to go back to their routine of heading over for a beer or other beverage. At the same time, however, it is difficult to simply readjust after the business endured a serious threat to its safety and security. Karin Muchtar, a manager at Ha’Simta and one of the late Bakal’s previous colleagues told media, “Getting back into the routine is full of ups and downs. One second you’re happy and remember something positive or funny about [Bakal], and a second later you’re crying…At a certain point, reality calls you. You have school, work, your real life… and it’s not easy.”
An investigation as to whether Melhem was acting as a sole perpetrator or as part of a larger organization is currently underway.