Killings in Israel's Arab Community Have Declined, but Only a Quarter Solved This Year

Since the beginning of 2022, 24 percent of murders in Israel's Arab community have been solved, while in the Jewish community that number stands at 66 percent. Of these 24 percent, only five indictments were filed

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
The scene of the explosion in Shfaram, northern Israel on Wednesday.
The scene of the explosion in Shfaram, northern Israel on Wednesday.Credit: Northern district fire command spokesperson
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The homicide rate in the Israeli Arab community has decreased in 2022, but the percentage of cases solved remains far lower than that of the Jewish community, a Haaretz tally shows.

So far in 2022, 33 Israeli Arabs have been murdered. In comparison, 47 such homicide cases were logged by this time last year. So far, only eight cases – 24 percent – have been solved, of which only five led to indictments. Meanwhile, police have solved eight out of the 12 murders, or 67 percent, in the Jewish community this year.

In 2021, police solved 80 percent of homicide cases in the Jewish community but only 27 percent of the killings in the Arab community. In 2021, the number of murders in the Arab community peaked at 126, which led police to escalate its fight against crime in the community.

"We are working hard to prevent the flow of weapons from the army and abroad,” a senior officer said. However, police cite the lack of witness cooperation, tampering with evidence and erasure of CCTV footage as the key factors behind their lack of success.

Despite these obstacles, a senior officer said he has recently noticed a change. “More witnesses and victims of violence are cooperating,” he said. He also noted that both leaders in local government and religious figures have come to understand that change won’t come without cooperation.

“This is a real failure on the part of the police," said Mahmoud Nasser, director of the fight against violence and crime in Arab society for the national council of Arab mayors. "There are successes, but we are still in a bad place compared to Jewish society,” he added.

“Police don’t take the murders seriously because they attribute them to family feuds. If the state wants to take this seriously, it must pay attention to murder itself and not make excuses for the lack of solved cases,” Nasser said.

Some success

The Israel Police, however, did register significant success against two prominent crime organizations – the Hariri and Jurash families. In March, police charged the Hariri family head, Malek, with extortion. A second indictment was filed in June against another relative, Nasser Hariri, also for extortion.

This week, Ahmad Kisas, considered one of Jurash’s men, was indicted for issuing counterfeit bills, money laundering and extortion. Senior officers say several members in three Arab crime families – Hariri, Abu Latif and Jurash – fled Israel in recent months, as police chief Kobi Shabtai holds regular discussions focusing on these three organizations.

The most significant case solved in the community was the shooting of three-year-old Ammar Hujayrat in January. Hujarat was shot while playing in a playground in Bir al-Maksur. Two months later, police pressed charges against a 24-year-old Nazareth resident for involvement in the killing. The police only indicted one person, despite two involvement of two others.

“Claims about noncooperation is just an excuse," Nasser said. "The police’s job is to solve crimes. But the police often have no ambition to solve crimes, claiming they are fights between criminals or murder within the family. When the police take murder seriously, as in the case of the boy in Bir al-Maksur, they find them."

Another case involved the killing of Razan Abbas, 17, who was shot in her bedroom as two families in feud exchanged of fire. In this case, too, police didn’t find the shooter. They will probably only manage to indict participants in the mass shooting, without her killer being tried for her death.

The latest Israeli-Arab victim is Johara Khanifs, 28, who was the daughter of the deputy mayor of the Israeli Arab town of Shfaram. She was killed Tuesday night after an explosive device planted in her car detonated. Her father, Faraj Khanifs, asserted that neither he nor she had received any threats, but police believe that a relative who opposed her views was behind the attack.

Khanifs' mother, holds her picture at her home in, "I never imagined my daughter would be murdered even in my worst nightmares."Credit: Rami Shllush

The use of a bomb points to the involvement of organized crime. Details of the case are under a gag order, but experience shows police struggle to solve cases which involve car bombs.

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