Israeli Arabs in the north are responsible for 99 percent of the murder and shooting incidents, said Superintendent Shimon Lavi, Northern District commander of the Israel Police on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Galilee in the Center conference in Acre, Lavi noted that 50 percent of the 1.3 million people living in the north are Israeli Arabs before asserting, “That 50 percent is responsible for 99 percent of the murders, 99 percent of the shootings, 65 percent of the arsons and 80 percent of the robberies.” Lavi added, “We are not in a fight against crime in Arab society, we’re in a war, and we are determined to take care of this.”
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In his remarks, Lavi referred to several recent incidents of violence in the north, including the death of a 28-year-old from a stray bullet earlier this week in the village of Ilut, and clashes that broke out between police officers and wedding guests in Deir al-Assad in June.
“I’m keeping half an army in Ilut now because if I leave, there will be a bloodbath,” he said. “The same thing in Deir al-Assad. If I’m not there – it won’t end well.”
Regarding Tuesday’s incident, in which a 27-year-old Galilee resident staying in a shelter for battered women was abducted by her four brothers, Lavi commented, “This is a routine kind of incident for us, but if we hadn’t reacted in time she wouldn’t be alive.”
The brothers were apprehended after a police pursuit. Lavi also said the police have foiled “more than a few murders, including some in which the intended victim was not aware that someone was out to kill him.” He added: “We can feel the support. I feel that the discussion of the crime problem in Arab society has gained momentum because people realize it’s not just a problem for the Arab community, it’s a problem for the whole country. And if we don’t wake up in time, it will reach other places.”
Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev said at the conference that the violence in Arab society “did not come out of nowhere” but rather arose as a consequence of “a years-long process of crime families taking over due to government neglect of the Arab communities and mixed cities.”
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Bar-Lev stated that frustration, discrimination and anger can provide fertile ground from which weeds will grow. He added: “It wasn’t until the violence from the crime families crossed municipal borders and struck Jewish society in the mixed cities and everywhere else that everyone woke up. The crime must be dealt with, and it is just as important to remedy the neglect and inequality.”
Violence in the north continued overnight Wednesday, when two people were wounded, and a man was shot dead in a drive-by shooting in the Lower Galilee, bringing the number of murder victims in Israel’s Arab community to 99 this year. The three were taken to Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, where 45-year-old Jihad Hammoud was pronounced dead.
The perpetrator escaped the scene and the police set up roadblocks across the area of the Arab local council of Deir Hanna. The shooting appears to be criminally motivated. Hammoud was known to the police and had been involved in gun-related offenses.
On Monday, Umm al-Fahm resident Ganem Fahmi Jabarin, a 43-year-old lawyer, died of his wounds, becoming the 98th victim of the year. He had been shot after leaving Friday prayers at a local mosque in that city. Police suspect he was shot as part of a family feud, but no suspects have been identified.
Adi Hashmonai and Jack Khoury contributed reporting.