Triple Murder in Northern Israel Makes 2020 Deadliest Year for Arabs in Two Decades

A man was shot in Baka al-Garbiyeh and his two uncles were shot dead as they were driving next to the ambulance that rushed him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead

Police investigate the scene of a double murder in Baka al-Garbiyeh, December 18, 2020.
Police investigate the scene of a double murder in Baka al-Garbiyeh, December 18, 2020. Credit: Rami Shlush

Three Israeli Arabs from the same family were shot dead on Friday in the country's north, bringing the number of 2020 murder cases in Israel's Arab community to 95, the highest figure in at least 20 years, according to Haaretz's tally.

Eyewitnesses said that shots were fired at a store in Baka al-Garbiyeh, wounding the store owner, 25-year-old Amir Abu Hussein. He was rushed to the Hillel Yaffeh Medical Center in Hadera, where he was pronounced dead.

Two of his uncles, 26-year-old Ahmad Sharkiyeh and 47-year-old Mohammad Sharkiyeh, were shot on Route 9 while driving near the ambulance that was making its way to the hospital. First aid teams rushed them to the same hospital, but they were both declared dead on the way. All three victims are from the village of Jatt, in the Triangle area.

The police said they had launched an investigation into the three murders.

Amir Abu Hussein
Mohammad Shakriyya
Ahmad Shakriyya

The Haifa Magistrate's Court issued Saturday a gag order on the police investigation, barring the publication of any details regarding the identity of the suspected perpetrators. The gag order will expire on December 26.

Fourteen Israeli Arabs have been murdered this month, and seven of them over the past week.

The Baka al-Garbiyeh Municipality said it would hold an emergency meeting on Saturday, with the attendance of Mohammad Barakeh, the chairman of the Arab Monitoring Committee, as well as Arab council heads and activists. According to Haaretz's tally, 91 Israeli Arabs were murdered in 2019, leading to widespread protests in the Arab community.

A policeman searches the scene near the double murder in the northern Israeli town of Baka al-Garbiyeh , December 18, 2020. Credit: Rami Shlush

Barakeh told Haaretz that "the crime rate has become intolerable and people should take to the streets again," adding that renewing the protest would "convey the message to the Knesset and the government that the Arab public is fed up with this foot-dragging."

The Arab Monitoring Committee is planning to renew the protests against the rampant violence next week.

On Thursday, Ali Nashwat Badawi, a 30-year-old resident of the central city of Qafr Kasem, was found dead near the Te’enim checkpoint north of his city, and investigators found shooting wounds on his body. Police suspect his murder is related to another murder case in Qafr Kasem last week. On Wednesday, 46-year-old Nimr Suliman was shot dead in the northern town of Reineh.

No suspects have been apprehended in any of these cases.

Despite government promises to curb violence in the Arab community, little government action has been taken to do so. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended a special session of the Knesset committee to fight violence in Arab society, which broadly addressed the government proposal to combat violence and concluded that the plan would be approved within weeks, but no such plan was approved a month and a half later.

In response to a query, the Prime Minister’s Office said that the plan is still being worked on. No date was given for its approval. Moreover, in a debate in the Knesset last week it emerged that no budget has been allocated to the plan.

The chairman of the Knesset committee to fight Arab violence, lawmaker Mansour Abbas, said during the discussion, “There’s a plan, it’s a good plan, and if it’s carried out to the letter there’s no doubt it will achieve its goal. What’s missing, deputy finance minister? We’re lacking a budget.” According to Mansour, the program will cost an estimated 2.5 billion shekels ($768.3 million) over five years.

Haaretz reported in October that the police solved murders of Jews at almost twice the rate as those of Arabs this year. The police solved only 31 percent of murders of Arabs in 2019 so far, 22 out of 71, while in the Jewish community it solved 58 percent of murders, 21 out of 36.

The Abraham Initiatives NGO, an organization that works to promote equality between Jews and Arabs, said this week that "while politicians are fighting over the state budget, Arabs are paying the price," and called for an immediate budget to eradicate violence in the Arab community.

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