Resident: 'There was shooting all night, it felt like a war'

14-year-old shot dead in Rahat; 48 killed in Arab community since start of year

Teenage boy killed during fight in southern town; another person lightly injured; hours earlier in apparently unconnected incident, man dies after Haifa shooting

Mohammed Abu Huwash (Courtesy)
Mohammed Abu Huwash (Courtesy)

A 14-year-old boy was shot dead in the southern town of Rahat, police said Saturday morning.

Police said emergency services pronounced the boy’s death on the scene in the southern Bedouin town.

He was later named as Mohammed Abu Huwash.

According to police, the teen was shot during a fight.

Reports said that in addition, a 17-year-old was lightly-moderately injured and hospitalized for treatment.

“There was shooting all night in the city. The police arrived and even then the shooting continued,” an unnamed resident told the Walla news site. “We felt like we were at war.”

The shooting continued in the town for a number of hours, throughout Saturday morning.

Illustrative: Police units in the Bedouin city of Rahat after a shooting incident, April 8, 2021. (Israel Police)

A few hours prior to the Rahat killing, in an apparently unconnected incident, a 39-year-old man from Shfaram was critically wounded while sitting in his car in the northern city of Haifa. According to the Ynet news site, the man was known to the police.

Hours later, his death was announced by the Rambam Medical Center.

According to the anti-violence campaign group The Abraham Initiatives, 48 members of the Arab community have been killed in violent incidents since the start of the year. The watchdog said 46 of them were killed by gunfire.

On Friday, a man was shot to death in Lod, hours after seven people were wounded by gunfire in the central city in a separate incident.

Hamza Abu Ghanem, 25, was shot outside his home after returning from morning prayers at a mosque, police found in a preliminary investigation.

A relative of Abu Ghanem told the Ynet news site he was an “honest person and we never heard of him being in feuds with anyone.” The relative initially thought police and medics had wrongfully identified the body.

Police said that the incident was not connected to the shooting on Thursday evening in Lod.

Police at the scene of a shooting in the central city of Lod, April 14, 2023. (Israel Police)

In that incident, an 8-year-old boy was among seven people injured by gunfire and remained hospitalized at Shamir Medical Center in a serious condition on Friday morning, according to a statement from the hospital.

Five others were in mild condition at the facility, while a 7-year-old boy was released following treatment, according to the statement.

According to a preliminary investigation, police said a man opened fire at the group of young people who were standing outside a residential compound. There was no immediate announcement of arrests.

The Walla news site identified the building as belonging to a local crime family.

“Another terrifying and crazy night for the Arab community. Rampant crime, serious injuries and bullets piercing the bodies of children,” tweeted Ra’am MK Waleed Alhwashla.

“In an enlightened country, those responsible today would draw conclusions” and resign, he added.

Arab communities have seen a wave of violence in recent years. Many blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has faced criticism amid the rising violence within the Arab community and against women, as well as a terror wave.

Itamar Ben Gvir speaking from the Knesset podium on March 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last month, the far-right minister reportedly said he canceled an anti-crime drive in several Arab towns because the project is being run by the local office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which he called “a leftist organization.”

The JDC, founded in 1914 and based in New York, claims to be the largest Jewish relief organization in the world. It is active in more than 70 countries and supports Jewish communities in Israel and across the globe. In addition to disaster relief, it focuses on social welfare issues. In 1976 it set up JDC Israel, which has worked with the government on numerous social projects for vulnerable populations in Israel.

The program was running in seven Arab towns as part of a government decision in 2021 to clamp down on spiraling violent crime in the Arab community, and is intended to complement police enforcement activities by identifying specific crime problems in each district and providing tailored tools to deal with them. It is a joint project involving the National Security Ministry, the Israel National Authority for Community Safety, the Attorney General’s Office, the police, the Hebrew University criminology department, the Prime Minister’s Office, and JDC Israel.

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