JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel Police reportedly mishandled a tip about the gunman who killed two Israelis in an attack on a Tel Aviv bar and later a cab driver.
On Wednesday, two women told Israel Radio that they tried to contact a police call center hours after the Jan. 1 attack, when video images of the shooting were aired on television.
The women said the gunman, Nashat Melham, boarded a bus they were riding in central Tel Aviv just after the attack. They said he looked suspicious and saw drops of blood on his clothing, according to reports.
An operator told the women’s boss, who had placed the emergency call, that someone would call them back, but the police never did.
The women had heard the bus driver tell the man where to pick up a bus to Wadi Ara, where he was discovered hiding out a week after he committed the attack.
Melhem had been the target of a massive manhunt in Tel Aviv, which then shifted to Israel’s North several days later.
Police said Wednesday that the call was one of thousands it had received in the hours after the attack, and they attempted to locate the bus driver.
The women were contacted by police after Melhem was killed in a shootout with police, according to Israel Radio.
The alleged police misstep comes more than a year after it came to light that a police emergency operator mishandled an emergency call from one of three Israeli teens in the moments after they were kidnapped from a bus stop in Alon Shvut, in the Etzion bloc of the West Bank, in June 2014. They were killed shortly after the abduction; gunshots were heard on the recording of the emergency call.
Also Wednesday, the Shin Bet security service released videos found on Melhem’s phone, which he lost on the morning of the attack, connecting him to the Islamic State terrorist group.
In addition, the Haifa District Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against three residents of Arara, Melhem’s Arab-Israeli hometown, for assisting him after the attack.