Top police officials knew that the man who is now the director of the police division fighting crime in the Arab community had stepped over a stabbing victim at a crime scene last year and had failed to offer the victim assistance. But the police brass ignored the information.
The case involves police Brig. Gen. Jamal Hakhrush, who was off-duty at the time and had been a customer at an iron plant in the town of Kafr Kana when the fatal stabbing was committed there. He had come to pay for an order that he had placed at Kafr Kana Iron and his presence at the scene was captured on security cameras.
At the time of the incident, Hakhrush headed a police unit responsible for improving police services in the Arab community.
According to a number of police sources, in the course of the investigation of the killing of the victim, Ghazi Amara, the police understood that Hakhrush had been at the scene but hadn't lent assistance. The security camera footage shows him stepping over the victim, who was bleeding to death at the time.
After the case was reported by Haaretz on Monday, the police said that they have granted Hakhrush's request to be placed on leave until his conduct is investigated. He denies any misconduct.
Around the time of the incident, information about Hakhrush's conduct was also provided to the then-acting chief of the Israel Police, Motti Cohen, but no one acted on the information. The Israel Police and Motti Cohen have not provided a response for this article.
"At the national headquarters, they also knew in real time about his conduct in the incident and about the problematic video," one police source said. "It was a marginal [aspect] in the murder investigation but it was impossible to ignore these things and they reached the top leadership of the organization and stopped there."
The information was not provided, however, to the disciplinary department of the police or to the current chief of the force, Kobi Shabtai, who took office in January 2021, several months after killing. Associates of Shabtai said he had not been aware of Hakhrush's involvement at the scene.
On the other hand, the northern district of the State Prosecutor's Office should have been aware of his involvement because they received the entire investigation file so that an indictment could be filed against Ghazi Amara's alleged assailant. Hakhrush did not testify in the trial of the case.
Following Haaretz's reporting on the case, Shabtai ordered that Hakhrush's involvement be investigated. The inquiry is to be headed by retired police Maj. Gen. Aharon Aksel, who is expected to issue findings in the coming weeks. Shabtai will then decide on Hakhrush's future in the police force.
Law enforcement sources said on Monday that they believe that this will spell the end of Hakhrush's police career, adding that Hakhrush's conduct was not befitting of a senior police officer.
After the police announced their intention to convene a team to investigate the matter, Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev informed Shabtai that the team would also look into the possibility that police officials had been aware of Hakhrush's conduct.
For his part, Hakhrush told associates on Monday that police who were called to the scene took command of the incident. He told Channel 13 news that he had acted appropriately.
"Of course, I acted professionally in accordance with procedures, according to professional procedures that we have at the Israel Police," he said.
"I did what I was supposed to. The first thing that needs to be done in such a case is to put a stop to the continuing crime. It was stopped. Closing off the scene. We closed it off, and calling and alerting professional forces, either the police or Magen David Adom [emergency medical services]. We did so," Hakhrush said.
Hakhrush was present at the plant at the time to pay for an order when a confrontation developed among the owners of the plant, members of the Amara family. He later saw a man, whom it later transpired was Ghazi Amara lying in the staircase and, according to the camera footage, stepped over him, stumbled and then left without rendering assistance.