Israeli police have killed a Palestinian citizen of Israel who was wanted for a fatal shooting attack in Tel Aviv more than a week ago.
Nashaat Milhem was shot and killed on Friday night during a shoot-out with Israeli officers in his hometown of Arara, situated in the Triangle region of central Israel.
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Local media showed pictures of Melhem’s body, with a submachine gun next to it, outside what they said was an abandoned building that reportedly had served as his hideout.
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Milhem killed three people on January 1, including two Israelis when he opened fire in a bar in Tel Aviv, and later an Arab taxi driver.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister, congratulated the security forces, which he said in a statement had “worked tirelessly, methodically and professionally” to track down the suspect.
Police said a special-forces team closed in on Milhem’s hideout and killed him as he stormed out, shooting at them.
There were no police casualties from the incident.
Speaking to the local Arab48 news site, however, residents disputed the Israeli police’s account of the incident and insisted that Milhem could have been arrested alive.
A small protest against his killing was subsequently staged in the village.
Milhem, 31, had previously spent four years in prison for charges related to a confrontation with an Israeli soldier, according to his former lawyer, who also described Milhem as mentally unstable.
The motives for Milhem’s attack remain unclear.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s internal security minister, thanked Israelis on Twitter for showing “vigilance, patience and understanding for the complexity of the police operation”.
Constituting 20 percent of the total Israeli population, an estimated 1.7 million Palestinians carry Israeli citizenship and live in cities, towns and villages across the country.
Comprised of Muslims, Christians and Druze, they suffer from more than 50 discriminatory laws that muzzle their political expression and limit their access to state resources, according to the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights.
Days after the Tel Aviv attack, Netanyahu prompted the criticism of rights groups and Palestinian legislators in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, when he called for an increased police presence in Palestinian towns and villages in Israel.
“We will open new police stations, recruit more police officers, go into all the towns and demand of everyone loyalty to the laws of the state.”
“Netanyahu is using the opportunity to attack the whole community, as he has done for years,” Jafar Farah, director of the Moussawa rights group in Haifa, told Al Jazeera.
“More law enforcement is not the solution,” Farah said. “The solution is to deal with core issues from occupation to systematic discrimination.”
Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian legislator in the Knesset, accused Netanyahu of “continuing his campaign of de-legitimisation” of the Palestinian minority.
The Tel Aviv attack came on the heels of a wave of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Protests surged in frequency in September as right-wing Israeli settlers carried out incursions into the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site for Muslims.
Unrest has since spread throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Palestinian communities in Israel.
Since October 1, Israeli soldiers or settlers have killed at least 150 Palestinians, among them unarmed protesters, bystanders and alleged attackers.
Meanwhile, Palestinian assailants have killed 23 Israelis, including soldiers and civilians.
On Friday, Israeli troops killed four Palestinian teens in the occupied West Bank village of Sair. The Israeli army said that the teens had tried to stab soldiers.