7-year-old moderately hurt in shooting in southern Bedouin city of Rahat

Young boy shot in neck while riding in family vehicle; police arrest 30-year-old suspect; 3 others shot night earlier in a brawl nearby

Yousef Sammir Alafenish shows the bullet that struck his neck, from a hospital bed at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. (Courtesy)
Yousef Sammir Alafenish shows the bullet that struck his neck, from a hospital bed at the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. (Courtesy)

A seven-year-old boy was moderately injured on Saturday afternoon in a shooting in the southern city of Rahat.

According to reports, Yousef Sammir Alafenish was shot while riding in a vehicle with his family in a neighborhood in the Bedouin-majority city.

The family rushed the boy to a medical center where he was listed in moderate condition after the bullet had struck his neck.

Police launched an investigation and a sweep of the area, a law enforcement spokesperson said.

The boy’s father told reporters from the hospital bed in Beersheba that the family was in a store and suddenly heard shooting. “We got in the car and the bullet hit the boy in the neck. It was a terrible nightmare,” he said.

“We don’t know what happened, we drove in the car, and out of nowhere it happened,” he added.

Police later said a 30-year-old Rahat man was detained by officers over the shooting. He is to be brought before a court later on Saturday to extend his remand.

View of the Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel, on April 8, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The incident followed an armed brawl overnight in an adjacent Rahat neighborhood, during which three men in their 20s were shot, police said.

They were taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center by medics, where one — a 20-year-old — was listed in critical condition. The other two — aged 20 and 24 — had moderate injuries, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

Police added that three suspects were arrested over a separate shooting on Saturday morning in the city, amid an “ongoing conflict between families.”

It was not immediately clear if the incidents were related.

Earlier this month, the country was shocked when a four-year-old child died after being shot in the northern village of Bir al-Maksur. Ammar Hujayrat was in a playground when he was shot, and police said it was believed he was hit by stray gunfire from a construction site some 300 meters (984 feet) away.

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. So far this month, there have been seven apparent homicides in the Arab community.

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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