Shootings Spike in Bedouin City, More Aggressive Enforcement Needed, Senior Cop Says

The police chief of the southern city of Rahat says 81 percent of its serious crimes were gun related last year, and that they were mainly the result of disputes over land

Nati Yefet
Nati Yefet
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A police car in Rahat, on Monday.
A police car in Rahat, on Monday. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Nati Yefet
Nati Yefet

The number of shooting incidents has increased in the Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel, the city's police commander said Monday, adding that "the level of enforcement should be somewhat more aggressive this year.”

Gun violence has spiked in Rahat despite police efforts to curb crime, including opening a designated base of operations to deal with shootings in the city.

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At a meeting at the Rahat Municipality, Chief Superintendent Amos Damari said that “Despite the command center and our work in settling some conflicts, the number of shooting incidents rose,” adding that “In 2021, we got up to 800 incidents in 247 locations."

According to Damari, who based his statements on police research, 300 people were identified as being responsible for all criminal activity in Rahat.

“Last year, the Rahat police station uncovered 14 such targets. One target sent to prison reduces crime rates substantially,” Damari told those present, including Deputy Public Security Minister Yoav Segalovich, Rahat Mayor Fayez Abu Sahiban, council members and representatives of the state prosecution and other government ministries.

Damari said that since 2019, the designated command center managed to reduce the number of conflicts in the city by 70 percent, from 34 in 2019 to 20 in 2020, further reduced to six as of now. He added that in order to reduce crime dramatically, administrative legislation must be put in place that would impose 50,000 shekel ($15,175) fines on anyone caught or photographed with an unlicensed weapon.

Damari noted that 81 percent of the serious crimes in Rahat during 2021 involved guns, with shootings, assaults and injuries mainly related to disputes over land. “Solving land disputes will bring crime down,” he said, pinning his hopes for possible solutions on Chief Superintendent Yaniv Shlomo, recently appointed as the point person for Bedouin affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Shlomo, who was previously the police commander in the southern district responsible for the Bedouin population, is highly respected among Bedouin leaders in the south.

On Monday, the Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court extended the detention of 11 suspects believed to have been involved in shootings in Rahat by two days. The detained are local residents suspected of conspiring to commit a crime and of the unlawful firing of a weapon.

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