Army and Shin Bet to Step in After Second Lod Murder

Mayor's efforts are ineffectual because of tense relations with Arab community; Public Security Minister steps in with plan to collect illegal weapons.

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu ) pledged yesterday a joint police, army and Shin Bet operation to collect illegal weapons, after a mother of three was gunned down early yesterday morning in Lod, in front of one of her children.

Amal Khalili murder
Moti Kimche

People close to Amal Khalili, 27, said she had been facing threats from the family of her former husband for months.

Her murder comes only a day after the killing in Lod of Sami Hijazi, who was similarly gunned down in the city center in front of his 13-year-old daughter.

Sources with close knowledge of Amal Khalili said she suffered abuse and attacks from her former husband's family ever since her divorce. The conflict reportedly centered on the couple's house. He was supposed to provide an apartment for her to move into with the three children, but when he failed to do so, she remained in their old home. "They would keep breaking her water main," one of the sources told Haaretz. "They did it in August, on the hottest day of the year, kept threatening her and she always said she felt threatened. This is why we'd never leave her alone."

Family members said the threats escalated sharply on Friday, when a stun grenade was thrown at the house. They said Khalili complained to police on several occasions, but nothing was done.

According to police, Khalili was driving in her car on Sokolov Street in Lod at around 3 A.M. yesterday, together with her daughter, 7, and her brother, 14. She slowed before a railroad track, and fire was directed at the car from just a few meters away. She was fatally wounded but managed to drive a few more meters. Her daughter was slightly injured by flying glass, and her brother was treated for shock.

The brother of Sami Hijazi, Hassan Hijazi, told Haaretz yesterday the Israel Police was unwilling to solve murders when victims came from the city's Arab community. "Police have lost control of the city, and don't investigate the murders because they say it's an internal affair of family honor or a gang fight," he said. "I was born in Lod and can't remember a time like this. There was always a mess, but you'd know it only affected criminals. Today, there's a young generation that can kill over a parking spot."

The commander of Lod's police station, Chief Superintendent Yossi Kedem, told reporters after the attack on Khalili "I don't think these murders could have been averted if there were more policemen. Last year most murders were around gang conflicts, this year it's more about family honor."

Her family criticized the commander for rushing to make statements about honor killings to the media. Khalili's killing was the eighth slaying since the beginning of the year in Lod, a city of 74,000 residents. Only one murder has been solved so far.

Lod Mayor Ilan Harari tried calling a meeting with 40 representatives of the Arab community yesterday, but only six confirmed their attendance.

"The city establishment has been an enemy to us for years," said local resident Mouhrab Zuheir. "We can't just suddenly start working together. Today, they want our help to catch the criminals and find the guns, but all through the year they are fighting us and demolishing our homes. There's just no point."

Police yesterday criticized the mayor for failing to obtain money for more joint police and municipal patrol cars, as well as to maintain the city's closed-circuit TV cameras, none of which were operational.

The police said yesterday reinforcements and special forces would be called to the city, while Aharonovitch, on a work trip to Eilat, said the Shin Bet would help confiscate illegal weapons. "I always said that there are cities and villages that if you sweep a magnet over them, the entire city will rise into the air." He told reporters: "We are close to a big series of operations, together with other organizations that will help."