Live Fire and Stun Grenades: Five Israeli Arab Leaders Attacked in Two Weeks

Series of incidents targeting elected officials and senior municipal employees comes amid protests and steps to curb violence in Arab community

A protest against violence in the Arab community at the Ramle police station, October 15, 2019.
\ Moti Milrod

Five attacks on local Israeli Arab leaders have taken place over the past two weeks, with sources in the Israeli Arab community blame on criminal elements.

Late Sunday night, gunshots were fired at the home of Shadi Shweiry, a city council leader in Kafr Yasif, while the family was out at a wedding. A resident of the village, 40, was arrested towards dawn on Monday on suspicion of firing the shots. Advised of the attack, Shweiry remained at the wedding, saying he wouldn't change his plans.

On Friday night, a stun grenade was thrown at the home of Elias Elias, the local council head of the town of Jish, and an attempt was made to set his wife's car on fire, causing damage to the vehicle. 

Although police forces combed the area following the attack and are investigating, no arrests have ensued.

Criminals threatening elected officials in Arab towns have become a norm, Elias says, adding that it's the police's job to handle the problem.

Last week the home of acting council chief of Reineh, Jamil Baransi, was attacked at a café. Police arrested a man in his 30s but qualify that the attack was not related to Baransi's work.

Two weeks ago shots were fired at the at the car of Nahf mayor Abed Albacete Kayas  and the home of Tamra mayor Suheil Diab. No arrests have been made. 

Last week Elias participated in a meeting of Arab municipal leaders with police and supported bringing special forces and border police units into the Arab towns in order to crack down on crime.

The national council of Arab municipal leaders called the series of incidents "very grave" and said that not only elected officials are targeted, but some senior municipal employees as well, though the motive was not always related to their jobs.

Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List tweeted on Monday morning that the violence indicates that criminals aspire to gain control over resources and officials by intimidating elected officials who don't submit to them. She accused the police of torpor and indifference: "Wake up and start to fight them," she tweeted. "The criminals won't just retire from the business for no reason, just as they won't hand over their guns just because we ask them to."

Members of Israel's Arab community have been holding protests for the past month over the failure on the part of police to curb crime in Arab towns amid an uptick in violence. Earlier this month, heads of Arab cities and towns met with senior police officials to discuss the problem. 

Several of the Arab council heads who attended the meeting in Nazareth said that they would like to advance a law to define organized crime in their communities as a form of terrorism, which would allow for harsher punishments and even setting up checkpoints at entrances to Arab cities.