5 Bedouin family members shot dead in northern home; Arab community toll rises to 188

Police checking for possible link between killing of Atef Abu Kalib in Haifa on Wednesday morning and those shot dead in nearby Basmat Tab’un a few hours later

A Magen David Adom ambulance on the site of a quintuple killing in the Bedouin village of Basmat Tab'un in northern Israel on September 27, 2023 (Magen David Adom)
A Magen David Adom ambulance on the site of a quintuple killing in the Bedouin village of Basmat Tab'un in northern Israel on September 27, 2023 (Magen David Adom)

Six people were killed in two attacks in northern Israel on Wednesday, five of them in a mass shooting in a Bedouin town, the latest incidents in the worsening crime wave in the Arab community.

One man was gunned down in a daylight shooting in Haifa, apparently mistaken for a relative involved in a criminal feud.

According to a preliminary investigation, Atef Abu Kalib, a 50-year-old Haifa resident and junkyard owner, was driving through a main street in the northern city at around 9 a.m. on Wednesday when he was ambushed by two masked gunmen.

The assailants, one of them carrying an automatic weapon, approached the car and shot Abu Kalib dozens of times at short range.

The two then escaped in their vehicle.

A few hours later, shortly before 3 p.m., five members of a single family were killed in a shooting inside a house in Basmat Tab’un, a Bedouin village in the north, around 22 kilometers (14 miles) east of Haifa.

The victims were two brothers aged 14 and 17, a mother in her 40s with her 25-year-old son, and a family relative in his 20s.

The five were found by Magen David Adom paramedics at the scene of the shooting with bullet wounds and no vital signs and were pronounced dead on the spot.

Another man, age 49, was found moderately wounded and taken to a hospital.

The police were looking into possible links between the two events, according to reports.

Police chief Kobi Shabtai arrived at the scene of the mass shooting on Wednesday afternoon, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir joining him later.

In a video statement from the scene, Shabtai called the shooting one of the “most abhorrent events we have ever encountered — a targeted elimination of an entire family that was apparently in response to a killing in Haifa this morning.”

Authorities transport the body of one of the people killed in a mass shooting in the northern Bedouin town of Basmat Tab’un on September 27, 2023. (Shir Torem/FLASH90)

Shabtai added that currently, “all the resources of the Israel Police are allocated to this incident in order to find and bring to justice the murderers.” The police chief said that the force will “attempt to use technological tools, as much as is possible,” a reference to police desire to use spy and hacking software as well as facial recognition technology in fighting crime, despite some legal pushback.

Ben Gvir expressed “deep shock” at the violence and the bloodshed in Arab communities, and accused Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara of rejecting his requests to apply administrative detention against Arab gangsters, a controversial practice currently used against terror suspects that allows incarceration without charge for up to six months.

Arriving at the scene of the crime late Wednesday, Ben Gvir was met with shouts of “go home” and “you’re not welcome here” by a handful of observers on site.

“What did he come here for? What is this, putting on a show?” a bystander yelled at Ben Gvir. “The time has come for this minister to go home. A shame and a disgrace to the State of Israel.”

Ben Gvir rejected claims by reporters that he had failed in his role overseeing crime and the police department, claiming that the wave of violence did not begin with his tenure nine months ago.

Abu Kalib, who was killed Wednesday morning, is believed to have been mistaken for a relative involved in gang war. Police said they were investigating if the incident was revenge for the shooting Saturday night of Edmund Dibi, who was also killed in another apparent case of mistaken identity.

Abu Kalib’s relatives told Hebrew media that he had no gang connections, but reports said he had a relative who was involved in a criminal organization.

The Abraham Initiatives anti-violence advocacy group said the killing of Abu Kalib and of the five people in Basmat Tab’un raised the number of Arabs killed in violent circumstances in Israel since the start of the year to 188, compared to 80 during the same period in 2022.

Police officers at the scene of a mass shooting in the northern Bedouin town of Basmat Tab’un on September 27, 2023. (Shir Torem/FLASH90)

Of those slain this year, 171 were shot, the group said.

The killings are part of a violent crime wave that has engulfed the Arab community in recent years. Many community leaders blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence. They also point to decades of neglect and discrimination by government offices as the root cause of the problem.

Authorities have blamed burgeoning organized crime and the proliferation of weaponry, while some have pointed to a failure by communities to cooperate with law enforcement to root out criminals.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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