‘State of emergency’: Six Palestinian citizens of Israel killed in one day

Palestinians and advocacy groups say Israeli authorities have long turned a blind eye to crime in their communities.

Haifa, Down Town
One Palestinian citizen of Israel was killed on Wednesday in Haifa, a city with a large Palestinian population, before five members of one family were killed in the northern town of Basmat Tabun [File: Creative Commons]

Six Palestinian citizens of Israel have been killed in two separate shootings, police said, the latest fatalities in a crime wave hitting the country’s Palestinian minority.

Five members of the same family were killed on Wednesday in a shooting in northern Israel. The three men and two women were shot dead in broad daylight in the town of Basmat Tabun, northwest of Nazareth, police said in a statement.

The Abraham Initiatives, a Jewish-Arab advocacy and monitoring group in Israel, identified the victims as a couple and their three adult children.

Police said they were treating the incident as criminal and hunting down suspected assailants.

Earlier on Wednesday, masked gunmen ambushed and killed another Palestinian citizen of Israel, who was on his way to work in the nearby coastal city of Haifa. Police said they were investigating whether the two shootings were connected.

Authorities in al-Halisa, the Haifa neighbourhood where Wednesday’s first killing took place, shuttered all schools and asked that students study from home for at least another day.

Wednesday’s fatalities brought the number of Palestinian citizens of Israel killed so far this year to 188, according to the Abraham Initiatives.

Palestinians have long voiced anger at what they have said is a deliberate lack of policing in their towns and neighbourhoods – giving criminals and drug dealers free rein.

Palestinian citizens of Israel comprise about 20 percent of the country’s 9.7 million population. They have also long suffered from poverty, discrimination and neglect by the government.

The country’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, promised to crack down on crime in Israel’s Palestinian communities when he took office late last year.

But Ben-Gvir, known as an anti-Palestinian provocateur, has seemingly done little to bring safety to Palestinian towns and villages.

The violence has instead intensified, with more than double the number of such homicides taking place for similar periods in recent years.

Less than 10 percent of similar cases have been solved this year, the Abraham Initiatives group added, describing the surge in violence as a symptom of both police indifference and Palestinian distrust of the police.

“The prime minister must sack the minister of public security and immediately put in place a plan to address criminality in the Arab society. It’s a state of emergency,” the Abraham Initiatives said in a statement.

“Police do not have the willingness or the capacity,” said Thabet Abu Rass, the group’s director. “People are afraid to go outside. It’s a very dangerous situation right now.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies