5 injured in shooting toward Rahat cafe; 1 in critical condition

4 others moderately wounded; days earlier another cafe in southern town targeted for employing Bedouin women; ‘We will continue to employ our daughters,’ mayor says

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

Five people were injured after unknown suspects opened fire toward a café in the Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel on Friday evening, police said.

The victims, all in their 20s, were taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

One person was in critical condition and the four others were moderately wounded.

Additional police forces called to the scene to restore order were attacked by rioters who threw stones toward them, police said.

On Saturday, police announced the arrest of four people suspected of involvement in the shooting.

All the suspects are men in their 20s and 30s, according to law enforcement officials.

Footage showed armed men storming into the cafe and opening fire.

The incident follows another shooting incident toward a cafe in the city that took place overnight Wednesday, however it was unclear if the two shooting attacks were related.

A number of masked vigilantes arrived at a local branch of the “Café Café” franchise on Wednesday and opened fire toward its main entrance shortly after it opened.

No injuries were reported in that incident but the eatery was heavily damaged.

The following morning, police arrested a 25-year-old resident of the city, suspected of involvement in the incident.

According to the investigation, the incident was connected to local objections to businesses in the city hiring female staff who work late shifts.

Shortly before the attack, an anonymous post published on social media and cited by the Ynet news site read: “In Rahat, men and women work until 01:00 a.m. The world has forgotten that we are the people of Prophet Muhammad. A people that only thinks about money and doesn’t have warmth and integrity anymore, how can it accept its sister and mother cleaning a table while people are sitting nearby?”

Illustrative: Bedouin women walk past the Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel on February 16, 2014. (Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

Rahat Mayor Fayez Abu Sahiban condemned the shooting toward the Café Café branch.

“This is a heinous act. It wasn’t carried out against ‘Café Café’ but against the services provided there, by employing Bedouin waitresses,” Abu Sahiban said.

“They claim it’s against our traditions, but everyone should live according to their own worldview and beliefs. We will continue to employ our daughters because it’s their livelihood and there is nothing unusual with that. We trust that the Israel Police will apprehend the criminals as soon as possible,” he said.

Rahat has seen several violent incidents in recent months, including brawls and shootings.

Last month, a 27-year-old resident was shot dead by undercover police officers during an arrest operation in the southern city.

In late January, a 7-year-old boy was shot in the neck during an apparent shooting between criminals in the city, following a violent brawl that left three men wounded.

Arab communities in Israel have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly, but not exclusively, by organized crime. Arab Israelis blame 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.

The Arab community has also suffered from decades of neglect.

The Abraham Initiatives, which monitors and campaigns against violence in the Arab community, said there were 125 Arabs — an all-time record — killed in Israel in 2021 as a result of violence and crime.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev have vowed to crack down on the violence as well as illegal weapons.

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