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January 10, 2016 7:22 pm

Palestinian Authority Calls Tel Aviv Pub Killer ‘Precious Martyr Whose Pure Blood Waters Our Free Land’

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Tel Aviv pub shooter Nashat Melhem's body, after a gun battle with Israeli special forces. Photo: Screenshot.

Tel Aviv pub shooter Nashat Melhem’s body, after a gun battle with Israeli special forces. Photo: Screenshot.

Raked over the coals for removing the name of the Tel Aviv pub killer from its official list of “martyrs,” the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry issued a statement stressing Nashat Melhem’s heroism, Palestinian Affairs expert and senior fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute Khaled Abu Toameh told The Algemeiner on Sunday.

Abu Toameh was the first to tweet in English about Melhem’s initially becoming number 150 on the PA Health Ministry’s regular updates of the number and identity of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces during the current surge in violence.

Melhem was killed on Friday afternoon in a gun battle with Israeli special forces following a week-long manhunt for the Wadi Ara resident who killed three Israelis — two Jews at a pub and an Arab taxi driver. Less than two hours later, Abu Toameh said, the PA Health Ministry prominently displayed Melhem’s name on its “martyrs” list.

“But someone must have told the PA that having Melhem deemed a ‘martyr’ might not be such a wise move, due to the way it would be perceived in Israel and abroad, so it suddenly disappeared,” he said.

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But then, said Abu Toameh, “Palestinians started going crazy on social media against the PA for removing the name. An Arabic hashtag calling Melhem a martyr was created, and Hamas also got into the act.”

Late Friday night, the PA Health Ministry responded to the hysteria by issuing a statement of clarification.

“They said that the documentation of the names of the ‘martyrs’ are limited to areas where the PA Health Ministry operates officially – in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip [and Melhem was an Israeli citizen, not under PA purview.] They said that the ‘failure to include Melhem on our list does not mean dropping his title of ‘martyr.’ He is one of the most precious martyrs, and his name has been inscribed with his pure blood that has watered our free land,’” Abu Toameh described.

According to Abu Toameh, many on social media are calling the Health Ministry disingenuous for claiming that it doesn’t register Israeli-Arab citizens killed in the “line of duty,” when Number 31 on the list is Muhanad Alukabi, an Israeli Bedouin from the Negev who carried out the October 18 attack at the Central Bus Station in Beersheba, killing an IDF soldier and wounding 11 other soldiers and civilians.

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