Police Shoot Dead Knife-wielding Mentally Disabled Arab Man in Family's Haifa Home

The Justice Ministry is looking into the killing of 33-year-old Munir Anabtawi, who police say tried to stab them

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Police officers at the scene in Haifa, on Monday.
Police officers at the scene in Haifa, on Monday.Credit: Rami Shllush

Police officers shot a mentally disabled Arab man who they said tried to stab them, aggravating concerns over Israeli police's handling of people with mental conditions in general and Arabs in particular.

Two officers arrived at the scene in the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood of Haifa after the mother of the 33-year-old man called the police and said he was behaving wildly while brandishing a knife in their family home.

The police said Munir Anabtawi lunged toward the officers and tried to stab them, wounding one of the officers with a knife. According to the police, they opened fire after the man stabbed the officer.

CCTV footage of the shooting in Haifa.

Anabtawi was evacuated in critical condition to the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, and declared dead soon after. The Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct is investigating the incident.

One of the police officers involved is being interrogated regarding the incident.

Munir Anabtawi and his sister.Credit: Mossawa Center

The family said the officers acted "unprofessionally," and should have been able to restrain Anabtawi without firing live rounds.

Attorney Alber Nahas, who represents the family and legal NGO Mossawa Center in the case, said "It cannot be that a mentally unstable man die by police, who are meant to handle the situation professionally."

A preliminary investigation of the incident by the Coastal District police found that two patrolmen from the Haifa police station were called on Monday afternoon to the house the Wadi Nisnas where the man lived with his parents. They watched him exit the house with a knife in hand, when he began running toward them and tried to stab them.

A similar incident occurred in June, when officers shot dead Mustafa Younis, a 26-year-old psychiatric patient at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, after he stabbed and lightly wounded one of the security guards before being disarmed and shot dead while lying on the ground.

About a month earlier, Border Police killed Eyal al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic Palestinian in Jerusalem. He was shot dead on his way to the special needs school he attended and worked at, and the trial against the officer involved in still pending.

Earlier last year, a police officer shot and killed Shirel Habura, a 30-year-old man with a history of psychiatric problems from Rosh Ha’ayin. Habura stabbed the officer in his leg and wounded him lightly. Video footage of the incident shows Habura attacking the policeman with the knife, knocking him to the ground and then shows the officer pushing him off and shooting him.

The Justice Ministry’s department for investigating police misconduct closed the case against the officer who shot Habura in January, saying the officer acted in self-defense and committed no crime. The Justice Ministry said the policeman’s life was in clear danger.

In 2019, a police officer shot and killed Yehuda Biadga, a mentally disabled 24-year-old man, after he ran at officers with a knife in Bat Yam. One of the officers shot the man of Ethiopian origin from only a few meters away, and he died of his wounds in the hospital. The Justice Ministry closed the case against the officer who shot Biadga, after determining the officer fired out of “a feeling of clear and immediate risk to his life.”

Out of 28 Israelis who were killed this year in violent incidents, 4 individuals were killed by police fire: Anabtawi's case on Monday, two in Tamra, and another in Haifa. In January, a 19-year-old man, Bisharat Zubeidat of Bosmat Tivon in the north, was shot and killed during a car chase with police.

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