Reeling From Weekend of Violence, Israeli Arab Neighborhood Demands Action

After triple murder, shooting at police car, Ramle residents scorn law enforcement and demand the uprooting of crime families from the community

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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A burnt car in the Jawarish neighborhood in Ramle during a visit by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, June 8, 2020.
A burnt car in the Jawarish neighborhood in Ramle during a visit by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, June 8, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

Police special forces on Sunday raided an Arab neighborhood in the town of Ramle where the three men shot to death the previous day had lived.

The raid by dozens of police officers started when gunshots hit a patrol car in the neighborhood, Jawarish. As the forces entered the area, some residents threw stones at them; the police then hurled stun grenades into people’s yards and ordered the residents to stay indoors.

A police official told Haaretz that there had been several violent incidents in the city, part of the conflict between the Jarushi and Alshamali crime families. The police believe that one of the men killed Saturday, Nihad Alshamali, was the actual target of the shooting.

Residents are furious and are demanding that the families be uprooted from the neighborhood. “All this is just to calm the Jews down,” a residents told Haaretz. “A police presence won’t help. Will someone whose brother or son was killed keep quiet? It’s not easy.”

The neighborhood has now been divided by concrete barriers  between the areas where the rival families live.

Fearing for the residents’ safety, the Ramle municipality ordered schools in the neighborhood closed for two days, with the police speaking of “great tension” in the area since the drive-by shooting.

The police said it wasn’t clear whether the patrol car was hit by gunshots aimed at it or by an errant bullet during a gunfight between two local families. But a police source said the raid aimed to “turn over the village” in a search for weapons.

A police roadblock in Ramle, June 7, 2020.Credit: Bar Peleg

On Monday, just before Public Security Minister Amir Ohana visited the city, the neighborhood was empty. Members of the Border Police  patrolled the streets, and the police announced they would remain in the area for a long stretch and increase their presence. They would use checkpoints and other deterrents.

Nihad Alshamali is the fourth member of his family to be slain in recent months. His brother was killed in Ramle in August, as revenge for the murder of Hamuda Mugrabi a day before. He was also a relative of a Ramle man who was killed in March in Netanya, after his brother was accused of involvement in the Mugrabi killing.

Along with Alshamali, 28, Jibril Akasha, 28, and Riyadh Abu Latif, 41, were shot to death Saturday. According to one police theory, the backstory was a string of disputes between crime organizations in Jawarish. After the shooting a car was found torched in the Palmahim Beach area to the west; the police believe it was the car used by the gunmen.

The Alshamali and Jarushi families, both of which settled in the area after the War of Independence, are of Bedouin origin from the south and the Shefela region west of Jerusalem. But nothing in the past resembles the war that was launched last year after Mugrabi was killed.

Mugrabi, a businessman from Jawarish, managed the Jarushis’ casinos holdings in Britain. He was killed in his car as he left the neighborhood late at night.

“We’ve been waiting for the day when the media would come and hear us out,” said Kamal Alshamali, whose nephew was killed Saturday night and who lost another nephew during a recent round of violence.

“What’s going on here began in the '80s. This place stank the most in the region. In came the crime, drugs and weapons. The police make a living from the Jarushi family and the crime families; they’re criminals and they don’t do anything," he added.

The scene of the shooting in Lod where three Jawarish residents were murdered, June 6, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

“Two of the people murdered were my nephews and the cause of the murder is the Israel Police. If the people murdered had been Jews, the police would have been here in seven minutes. From the start of the year to now more than 60 Arabs have been murdered and the police have failed.”

On Sunday evening, after the funerals of the three who were shot, a garbage container and two cars were set alight in the middle of the neighborhood; then the shooting started. One bullet hit a police patrol car standing at the barrier between the two halves of the neighborhood.

The cars were burned in front of a school and preschool. On Sunday, following the killings, only seven children out of 700 came to school, leading to the two-day shutdown.

“In such a situation it's hard to focus on education,” said Nawal Abu Amar, the school's principal. “Our job is to give the children the feeling that there’s a place that’s sane and sacred that can’t be touched in this village. We'll get them back into a routine and keep them off the street.”

On Monday morning the police displayed the results of their raid – seven arrests, thousands of bullets and a homemade Carl Gustav submachine gun, known colloquially as the Carlo.

Not far from the school sat a group of teenagers, most of them unwilling to be identified, all of them angry. They are not members of the warring families.

“The criminals like when the media is here; it brings them up a notch,” said one teenager, who added that the recent victims were innocent people who had no connection to violence or crime.

According to the police and the municipality, part of the solution to the current round of violence would be the opening of a permanent police station in the neighborhood.

During a visit to the area, Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen said a red line had been crossed Sunday. The police say there have been three consecutive shootings at police officers, all of them in the police's central district, and in one case two officers were wounded.

“We as the police will not yield and will continue our police activity and our uncompromising struggle against crime," the police said. "The police are strong and will find the criminals and the weapons aimed at police officers and civilians.”

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