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Shin Bet called in amid deadly crime wave in Arab towns

A mayoral candidate and municipal director are among the latest victims of rampant violence in Israel's Arab sector.

Police at the scene where four men were shot dead in the Arab Town of Abu Snan, northern Israel, Aug. 22, 2023. Photo by Shir Torem/Flash90
Police at the scene where four men were shot dead in the Arab Town of Abu Snan, northern Israel, Aug. 22, 2023. Photo by Shir Torem/Flash90

The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) will join the investigation into Tuesday’s quadruple murder in the Western Galilee town of Abu Snan, Walla reported.

Ghazi Sa’ab, a 53-year-old Israeli Arab running for head of the local council in the Oct. 31 municipal elections, was among the shooting victims. The other fatalities were identified as his relatives Zohar al-Din Sa’ab, 45, and Amir Sa’ab, 28, along with Salman Halavi, 66, from the Druze village of Yarka.

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at the scene where four men were shot dead in Abu Snan, near Acre, Aug. 22, 2023. Photo by Shir Torem/Flash90

A total of 156 Arab Israelis have been killed since the start of the year, mostly in shootings, up from 69 during the same period last year, according to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit organization.

“Today, every citizen of the Arab community in Israel lives in terrible fear, heavy grief and profound anxiety. Each of those murdered is a complete world to their family and loved ones,” President Isaac Herzog said after the quadruple homicide. “This is an emergency that requires decisive measures by the state to eradicate crime and violence and prevent the further loss of life.”

The Shin Bet will also be involved in the probe into the killing on Monday of Abdel Rahman Kashua, the municipal director of the Israeli Arab city of Tira, located southeast of Netanya.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday vowed to “eliminate crime in the Arab sector” amid ongoing violence in the minority population.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Aug. 20, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/POOL.

“The murder of the director general of the city of Tira crossed a red line. We cannot tolerate these murders, the criminal organizations, the protection rackets and the taking over of the municipality,” the premier said.

“We will use all means, including the ISA [Israel Security Agency] and the police, all means, in order to defeat this criminal phenomenon. We have eliminated organized crime in the Jewish sector in Israel and we will eliminate organized crime in the Arab sector in Israel.

“Every citizen of Israel must feel secure and not under the shadow of the threat of internal terrorism,” Netanyahu said.

Police at the scene where four men were shot dead in Abu Snan, northern Israel, Aug. 22, 2023. Photo by Shir Torem/Flash90.

The Ministerial Subcommittee on Advancing the Fight against Crime in the Arab Sector in Israel is set to convene on Wednesday. Netanyahu will chair the meeting, which is expected to be attended by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, Interior Minister Moshe Arbel, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Economy Minister Nir Barkat and Social Equality Minister Amichai Chikli.

Ben-Gvir, in a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday, called for the Shin Bet to investigate all murders in the Arab sector as a stopgap measure until his proposed National Guard and other measures are fully implemented.

“Until then, this is a daily threat of armed militias operating fearlessly within the State of Israel, and it is an emergency that requires the activation of all tools in the name of the full intervention of the General Security Service [the Israel Security Agency’s name in Hebrew—J.M.] in the war against major crime organizations, along with administrative arrests for the heads of these organizations.”

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