Israel: Palestinians protest police ‘inaction’ after mass shooting kills five

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 9, 2023

Latest murders come as crime rate reaches record level in Palestinian towns and villages inside Israel.

Palestinian citizens of Israel have announced general strikes and protests against the Israeli police’s “inaction” after a mass shooting left five people killed on Thursday.

The attack, which comes amid a record-high murder rate in Palestinian towns and villages inside Israel, is one of the deadliest crime-related shootings witnessed in the country in recent years. 

More than 90 people have been killed in such shootings this year, compared to around 30 killed in the same period in 2022.

The High Follow-Up Committee, an umbrella civil society organization representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, called for strikes and demonstrations on Friday and Saturday across Palestinian towns.

“We hold Israeli authorities fully responsible for the alarming increase in crime in our society, as it is the official body that bears the responsibility and has the ability to eradicate this terrible phenomenon,” the committee said in a statement on Thursday. 

Two of the shootings on Thursday happened near Nazareth, in the north of the country, and two more were reported in Kafr Qasim and Umm al-Fahm. 

The worst shooting took place in the village of Yafia Nazareth, which claimed the lives of five people, including a 15-year-old. It is believed to be part of a crime family feud. 

Another person was killed in Kafr Qasim and a shooting in Kafr Kana village left two people wounded, including a three-year-old toddler who was seriously injured. 

Israeli police said on Friday that they had arrested 14 suspects connected to the Yafia Nazareth shooting. 

Meanwhile, dozens of people on Friday morning took to the street in Nazareth to protest against the police, with more expected to join similar demonstrations elsewhere. 

Palestinians say police have failed to ensure their safety against organized crime gangs that have plagued their community for years. 

Some accuse Israeli authorities of complicity with criminals in a bid to weaken the social fabric of their community and make them feel unsafe. 

“We have been warning and calling for years to take weapons off the streets and tackle the criminal organizations,” Aymen Odeh, a member of the Israeli parliament with the Hadash party, said on Twitter.

“We will not tolerate this neglect. We will shut down the entire country until it stops.”

The High Follow-Up Committee accused the Israeli government of pursuing a policy of “inaction” when dealing with crime in Palestinian towns.

Israeli police officials dismiss claims suggesting they are complicit. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he was “shocked” by the Thursday murders and that his government was “determined to stop this cycle of killing”.

He also said that he plans to bring in Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet to help fight the crime wave. 

However, the High Follow-Up Committee opposed potential support from the Shin Bet, which they said could be used as a pretext to put Palestinian citizens of Israel under further state scrutiny.

Neglect and discrimination

Palestinian citizens of Israel are the descendants of the native population which was violently displaced by Zionist militias during the creation of Israel in 1948.

For decades, they have suffered under discriminatory laws and practices imposed by the Israeli state.

According to Abraham Initiatives, an NGO, crime and violence in the community are a result of “under-policing and tense relations with the Israeli police”.

The organization says that 50 percent of overall violent crime in the country affects Palestinians, even though they comprise only 20 percent of Israel’s population. 

The presence of illegal weapons in Palestinian towns is rampant, with gangs – involved in the drug and arms trades, prostitution and other crimes – taking advantage. 

Despite Israeli officials saying they want to fight crime, police have been slow in solving murders.

Only nine indictments have been filed in cases linked to 96 homicides affecting Palestinians recorded this year.

Meanwhile, more than 83 percent of homicides in the Jewish community have been solved.