Israeli Police Concede That They Can’t Control Violence in Arab Community

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Police forces in Taibeh, in central Israel, Saturday night.
Police forces in Taibeh, in central Israel, Saturday night.Credit: Panorama Group

Senior police officials admit that their organization is not managing to take charge of the shootings and murders in the Arab community, which have been on the rise over the last few weeks.

“We have lost control of the street in Arab communities. There is no orderly plan to contend with crime and the commissioner’s job is only to respond to incidents,” says one senior officer.

“The notion that the department for fighting crime in Arab communities [which was established last month] will change the picture is false. It doesn’t have real operational forces. What will happen now is that plans will be laid for forces on the ground, along with a plan for collecting weapons, neither of which will solve the problem in the long run, seeing that most incidents involve criminals and crime organizations. All our actions relate to present conditions, with no longer-term planning.”

Since last Thursday, three people were murdered in Arab communities across Israel. Eleven were murdered earlier this month, which is already setting a new record for the number of monthly murders, as did January and August. Last month, 14 people were murdered in Arab communities, along with 7 in Jewish communities.

“One must say in all honesty that we’re having difficulties in curbing violence in the Arab street,” says another senior police official. “On the face of things, there is no connection between the multiple incidents of the last two months, but it’s clear that one incident follows another, since people see that murders are committed without the perpetrators being caught, leading them to take advantage of opportunities to settle scores.”

Nearly all the recent murders have involved criminals known to the police – people who were involved in some dispute. This underscores the difficulty the police face in gathering advance intelligence about intent to harm rival criminals. Nevertheless, says this senior officer, there is an urgent need to not only divert resources, mainly personnel, to Arab towns, but for heads of Arab local councils to call on their public to desist from using firearms. “We won’t be able to deal with this problem on our own; in order to stanch the bleeding, we need everyone’s cooperation,” he adds.

The ineffectiveness of police measures was evident in recent days. In Nazareth, a prisoner released recently after 32 years in jail was murdered, as was a young man in Be’er Sheva who was known to the police for firearm and violence offenses. In Haifa, another man known to the police was murdered.

The crime scene in Haifa, Thursday night. Credit: Rami Shllush

But it’s not only criminals who are hurt in these disputes. In Haemek Hospital in Afula lies a 6-year-old child who was seriously wounded a few days ago while traveling in a car in Umm al-Fahm. The other occupants of the car were also hit by gunfire, believed to be connected to a dispute between two families in that city. Last week, a young man was shot dead at a wedding in Taibeh. The gunfire injured five other people. In fact, after the formal launching of the department for fighting crime in Arab communities at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on August 12, the rise in murders has been evident. Since then, 23 people have been murdered.

According to figures obtained by Haaretz, 92 people have been murdered in Arab communities since the beginning of this year, comprising 71 percent of all murders in Israel. Eighty percent of those murdered were killed by gunfire. This emphasizes the large number of illegal weapons in Arab communities, which no one can reliably estimate, probably amounting to tens of thousands of weapons.

The police are finding it difficult to solve the murders. So far, 21 percent of all murders in Arab communities this year have been solved, compared to over 50 percent in Jewish communities. This reflects the large number of incidents, say senior police officials. “When they see that perpetrators aren’t caught, there is no deterrence,” admits a senior police officer.

Most of the murders take place in the police’s Central District, encompassing Taibeh, Tira, Kalansua, Lod and Ramle, where 36 murders took place this year, as well as in the Coastal District, which includes the Wadi Ara area, Umm al-Fahm and Haifa, where 31 murders were committed. In these two districts, the number of murders is the largest in the country, led by the Central District with 13.9 victims per 100,000 people.

The police have recently been trying to act against Arab crime organizations using different methods, so far without success in foiling murders. A few days ago, the police conducted a large raid in Deir al-Assad, Shfaram and Yirka, aimed at residents involved in extortion and other violent offenses. Tens of thousands of shekels were confiscated, along with weapons, and 15 suspects were apprehended.

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