A report released on Sunday by the Inspector General of Israel’s police department addressed wide-spread criticism of how Israeli police handled a terrorist man-hunt following a series of terror attacks by Nashat Melhelm in January.
At the crux of the investigation was the alleged failure of a police call center to properly handle information it had received regarding the location of the terrorist.
Following the attacks that left three Israelis dead, two restaurant workers spotted Melhelm on a bus headed north. The two recognized Melhelm from TV broadcasts and noticed his bloody shirt and backpack. They quickly notified both the bus driver and their employer of their suspicions.
The employer, Guy Kokush, quickly called the police to notify them of the reported sighting.
When Kokush missed a call from a blocked number and attempted to call back to the police to speak with investigators, the receptionist at the call center refused to connect Kokush directly, instead giving him a number to call by himself.
Following the attacks, Melhelm evaded police for days, before he was finally located and killed by security forces.
In the report, the Inspector General vindicated police handling of the incident. The report revealed that the tip on Melhelm’s whereabouts was sent five hours after the attack, and security forces were already en route to the terrorist’s home in Wadi Ara.
According to the Inspector General's report, while the poor handling of the Kokush’s follow-up call reflected badly on the police call center, the actual tip concerning Melhelm's location was written and passed along properly.
The information he provided was taken into consideration, and while a proper follow-up call between investigators and Kokush would have been appropriate in keeping Kokush updated, the failure to do so did not impact the investigation or harm public security.