Following the revelation it had ignored eyewitness reports of Nashat Milhem's whereabouts, the Israel Police issued a staunch denial of any wrongdoing on Wednesday evening.
Milhem gunned down three people in Tel Aviv on January 1, before fleeing to his hometown of Arara in the north to hide out.
Head of the police's Operations Unit, Deputy Commission Aharon Aksol, denied failings in the police's manhunt for the terrorist which ended in a shootout a week after Milhem conducted the deadly attack.
"As someone who accompanied [the search], I want to say unequivocally that this is a storm in a teacup," stressed Aksol. "There were reports the suspect was here or was there. Probing the girls who called that night would not have changed any operational decisions."
"It did not matter to the extent [that it would have changed] the operational intelligence picture," he added.
Aksol also asserted that the possibility of Milhem traveling north after the attack, which follows what the girls reported, was investigated by police that same evening.
"The Yamam unit raided several houses in Wadi Ara," he stated. "This possibility was already in front of us and did not disappear. So even if we had investigated [the girls' claims], it wouldn't have changed our actions. The Israel Police acted in a clear and sharp manner."
According to the sisters', as reported earlier by Kol Israel radio, Milhem boarded a bus in Tel Aviv heading north at around 3:30 p.m. The girls could see bloodstains on his shirt and on the backpack he was holding.
They alerted the driver who reassured them the suspicious-looking man would probably get off the bus soon enough.
At 8:00 p.m., when the sister's saw Milhem's picture on the news, they recognized him and told their boss, who called the police hotline. Despite calling numerous times that evening, no one called back to ask for more details.
It was only after Milhem was found and eliminated that police followed up on the girl's report, with sources close to the investigation confirming the girl's information had been verified by investigators.