Three family members from East Jerusalem were charged Thursday with the murder of four of their distant relatives in a family dispute.
The killings were committed about a month ago in Kafr Aqab, a Palestinian village within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries that is on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank.
Israeli authorities have a limited presence there, and following the killings, in a rare move, Israel permitted armed security forces from the Palestinian Authority into the neighborhood to calm matters.
The defendants – Ahmed, Zayad and Fawzi Rajabi – are charged with involvement in the killing of Adnan, Haytam, Issam and Ihab Rajabi. The conflict began when the victims complained to the son of one of the defendants that he was driving recklessly near their home, according to the indictment. In response, the driver allegedly returned with the defendants, who attacked the occupants of the house and shot at them, the indictment says.
Several hours later, the two sides of the family sought to resolve the dispute and agreed that the three would stay away for a day from the street where the attack took place. But the son of one of the defendants returned the next day, prompting a confrontation between the two sides.
The defendants allegedly returned to the scene with an M-16 rifle and three handguns and fired at the victims from a few meters away, killing three of them instantly. The fourth victim, Ihab Rajabi, who was critically wounded, died later in the hospital. The incident was captured on video, which was publicized that same day.
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The defendants turned themselves in a few weeks after the killings. In addition to four counts of murder, Ahmed and Zayad Rajabi are charged with carrying a weapon, aggravated bodily harm and other allegations. Fawzi Rajabi was charged with aggravated bodily harm, carrying a weapon and obstruction of justice. The prosecution also submitted a request to arrest the 17-year-old son of one of the defendants. The teen turned himself in but has not yet been charged.
Kafr Aqab, with a population of about 70,000, is situated north of the separation barrier near the Qalandiyah checkpoint, in territory that Israel annexed following the 1967 Six-Day War. After the separation barrier was built the area, Israeli authorities abandoned any regular presence there, as well as in the Shoafat refugee camp, which is also on the other side of the barrier.
The police, the Jerusalem municipality and the other Israeli authorities rarely enter the neighborhood. Residents complain of severe violence, faulty infrastructure and poor sanitation there.