Two Siblings Murdered in Northern Israel as Gun Violence Claims More Arab Victims

Jack Khoury
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Emergency services at the murder scene in northern Bedouin village of Ibtin, Israel, on Saturday.
Emergency services at the murder scene in northern Bedouin village of Ibtin, Israel, on Saturday. Credit: Magen David Adom
Jack Khoury

Two people were murdered on Saturday in the northern Bedouin village of Ibtin. Hassan Rahimi, 56, was shot dead and his sister Subhiyah, 60, was beaten to death. They are the 53rd and 54th crime victims in the Israeli Arab community this year alone. 

Emergency medical services found the man dead at the scene and took the gravely wounded woman to Rambam Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. A 43-year-old female relative was moderately injured in the incident.

A resident of the village said that a family dispute had led to the murder and that the two victims had been trying to keep apart two sides engaged in a fight. 

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According to witnesses, a prolonged dispute over land erupted into a brawl involving dozens of people. “Resorting to the use of arms and other weapons has become the immediate response in any dispute, and unfortunately, in this case too, the person who paid with his life was the calmest and most uninvolved person,” said a family acquaintance in conversation with Haaretz. He added that in the wake of the murder, houses and property of people believed to be involved in the shooting were torched.

Simmering disputes in Ibtin have led to a number of shootings and other violent acts in recent years. The village, located near the northern town of Kiryat Tivon, has no council, and is under the jurisdiction of the Zevulun regional council. Villagers complain that there is hardly any intervention by external agencies to try to stem the violence.

According to figures collected by the Arab-Jewish NGO Abraham Initiatives, 54 Arab citizens have died in crime-related circumstances since the beginning of this year. Nine of these were East Jerusalem Arabs who are not Israeli citizens, and nine were women. In 43 of the cases, firearms were the cause of death.

In addition to the double murder in Ibtin, a 30-year-old man was seriously wounded by gunfire on Saturday in the city of Arabeh, near Sakhnin. On the night between Thursday and Friday, a 19-year-old man was shot in a bakery in Nazareth and was hospitalized in stable condition. The shooting took place at the same bakery in which the famous Oud player Tawfiq Zahar was shot two years ago. He was walking by with his granddaughter and was hit when shots were fired at the bakery.

Two other people were shot to death last week. They were Khaled Nahash, 19, who was shot at the entrance to his house in Nazareth, and Maysar Othman, a 28-year-old resident of Haifa. Othman was a mother of four and was in conflict with her former husband regarding child visits. Two weeks ago, she filed a complaint with the police after he failed to return the children as had been agreed upon.

Heads of Arab local councils are expected to meet on Monday for discussions with Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev. They called for an urgent meeting last week following the spate of murders in Arab communities, in order to formulate an operational plan for combating violence. The chairman of the committee of Arab municipal chiefs, Mudar Younis, told Haaretz that “there are many plans and decisions on paper, but there is an urgent need to advance steps and budgets in order to fight crime and support communities.”

Meanwhile, a traditional sulha reconciliation ceremony was held in Tur’an, near Nazareth, on Saturday in an effort to resolve a dispute between two families that has led to three deaths and several seriously wounded people over the last two years. The ceremony was held under the auspices of a sulha committee from the Negev, as well as representatives of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, Knesset members, clerics and other public figures. The two families formally committed to stop resorting to violence. The ceremony was preceded by weeks of discussions and earlier failed attempts to reconcile. The sulha committee will set an amount of reparations to be paid to the victims’ families.

The involvement of sulha committees in Arab communities is considered to be effective in cases of inter-family or clan disputes. But their influence is very limited when the dispute involves criminal elements.

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