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TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli police on Friday killed an Arab citizen wanted for a Jan. 1 shooting rampage in Tel Aviv that left three dead. The killing ended a week-long manhunt for the gunman.
Police tracked down Nasat Melhem to an abandoned building in his hometown of Arare in northern Israel, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement. The 31-year-old came out of the building firing at security forces and was shot dead in the ensuing gun battle, she said.
Melhem was carrying the same rifle used in the New Year's Day killings, Samri said. No Israeli forces were injured during the operation.
Tensions ran high in Tel Aviv during the manhunt, with many residents staying off the streets and parents keeping their kids home from school.
"The police have worked day and night to find the shooter and I'm very happy that we can see fruit from their efforts," Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement.
The motive behind Melhem's attack, which started when he opened fire on a group of people outside a cafe- bar in Tel Aviv has not been determined. Alon Bakal, 26, and Shimon Ruimi, 29, were killed at the Simta Bar on Dizengoff Street, a main Tel Aviv thoroughfare. Taxi driver Amin Shaaban, 42, was killed a short while later, police said.
Security camera footage released the day after the shooting showed Melhem wearing protective eyeglasses and a windbreaker while causally browsing dried fruit at a health food store in central Tel Aviv, police said.
He then allegedly pulled a machine pistol from his backpack, stepped onto the pavement and started spraying bullets.
The attack comes amid more than three months of almost daily Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers. On the Israeli side, 25 people have been killed, mostly in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. At least 131 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, 90 of them identified by Israel as assailants. The rest died in clashes with security forces.