JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel will not release the body of Tel Aviv shooter Nashat Melhem until his family complies with a police requirement that the funeral does not turn into a rally in support of terrorism.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan withheld the release of the body for the funeral, which was planned for Sunday evening. In a statement issued Monday, Erdan said the body will be released when the family agrees to the demands of the Israel Police that the funeral be small and low-key.
“The release will be delayed until we can be sure these conditions are met,” Erdan said.
On Sunday, the military wing of the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee held a symbolic funeral for Melhem in Gaza City, with gun-toting pallbearers carrying an empty coffin and eulogizing him as a martyr, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported.
“This rally is to honour martyr Nashat Melhem, as there is no difference between martyrs from the West Bank and martyrs from the 1948 territories,” one of the gunmen told Maan, adding that “Palestinian factions are completely ready to confront the enemy in the field.”
Melhem, 31, was killed late Friday afternoon in a shootout with police near his home in northern Israel. He opened fire on Israeli forces with the machine gun he allegedly used in the Tel Aviv attack on Jan. 1.
Police said Melhem killed two young men when he shot up a bar in central Tel Aviv and then murdered a taxi driver who transported him from the scene of the crime. Six others were wounded.