Toddler and Man Injured After Caught in 'Family Feud' Crossfire in Acre Old City

A toddler and a man were injured yesterday in a shooting incident in the old city of Acre.

Six men were arrested for allegedly taking part in what police believe was a family vendetta.

The toddler, 3, was hit in the left ear by a bullet as he was walking to school with his older sisters. A pastry shop worker, 28, was hit in the lower torso. The two were taken to the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya. Three bullets hit and penetrated one girl's satchel, but did not exit the other side, leaving her unscathed.

At 7:30 A.M. yesterday three masked men with rifles came to a pastry shop in old Acre and started shooting at the owners' son. Toddler Saliman Tarek Shalabi and his three sisters, in sixth, eighth and ninth grades, on their way to kindergarten and school, were caught in the line of fire.

One of the sisters, Asma, said she was holding her brother and older sister's hands as the three were making their way toward the Terra Santa school near the port.

"We were walking through the market place and were approaching the school when suddenly we heard shots and shouts and my little brother started screaming and all his face was covered with blood," she told Haaretz.

Dr. Jack Stolero, director of the hospital's emergency room, said the toddler was light to moderately injured and he was suffering from damage to his ear and a small skull fracture. The employee at the pastry shop had been operated on at the hip and was in moderate condition.

The children's father, Tarek Shalabi, said he had dropped the children off close to the school as he did every day and they made the rest of the way on foot. A few minutes later he was told by telephone that his son had been shot.

"I felt my world had collapsed. I ran to the place and saw the children scared and my son injured. They were saved by a miracle, millimeters separated them from death," he said.

The father and several others said there was no sense of personal safety in the town.

"The situation is insufferable. Criminals walk around freely in the old city of Acre and there's nobody to stop them. I urge anyone who can do something, the town leaders and of course the police and law enforcement authorities to do something to clean it up. Enough blood has spilled in Acre in gang wars," he said.

Police closed off the area and began an investigation.

Police said the incident was part of a prolonged feud between two families "with a police record," and the suspects belonged to both families. One of the detained men is seen as the primary suspect in the shooting.

The pastry shop owners said the attack was carried out by criminals who were extorting the town's merchants for protection money.

"We're not a family of criminals and everyone knows that, including the police. It was an attempt to frighten business owners and the police should deal with these criminals instead of permitting a Wild West situation in Acre. This is especially true of the old city, which has no youth club but is full of cafes and teenagers who have nothing to do but get involved in criminal activity," a family member said.

Police Galilee Sub-District Commander Menahem Hever dismissed the family's complaint regarding protection fees. He said he has received no complaints about this and suggested it was no more than an excuse.

The police are familiar with the dispute between the two families and will beef up presence in Acre, especially in the old city, to deal with the town's criminal elements, he said.