Arab Israeli teen, former lawyer killed in Galilee attacks as criminal violence spirals

Amir Abu al-Hija, shot outside his home, and Jamal Khier, whose car exploded, are 42nd and 43rd murder victims in Arab community this year

Left: Jamal Khier, killed in a car blast near Abu Snan on March 23, 2024; Right: Amir Abu al-Hija, 16, killed in a shooting in Tamra on March 22, 2024 (Social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Left: Jamal Khier, killed in a car blast near Abu Snan on March 23, 2024; Right: Amir Abu al-Hija, 16, killed in a shooting in Tamra on March 22, 2024 (Social media; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Two Arab Israelis were killed in violence in northern Israel over the weekend, the 42nd and 43rd victims this year of deadly crime that continues to plague the community.

A 16-year-old boy was shot dead in Tamra in the Upper Galilee Friday night. Amir Abu al-Hija was critically injured by gunfire and rushed to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, where he was declared dead.

Police were investigating the killing, suspecting a criminal feud between local families. Police believe al-Hija was hit by gunfire aimed at his family’s home. It is not clear who the target was.

A relative of Abu al-Hija told the Ynet news site: “Amir was a lovely boy, all smiles. He was murdered in cold blood. He didn’t make any ‘mistakes’ and didn’t harm anyone, and his life was taken away in seconds, and on Ramadan.

“I have no words. It’s a horrible, very painful event. We don’t know who’s next.”

Another family member blamed authorities: “We see shootings in town almost every day, but there’s no proper response and there’s a feeling of inadequacy of all authorities. These criminals must be stopped before they murder others.”

And on Saturday morning, a man in his 60s was killed when his vehicle exploded near Abu Snan, north of Haifa. Jamal Khier, a former lawyer, is thought to have been the target of a mob hit, for unknown reasons. Police are investigating that killing too.

Paramedics rushed the victim to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, where doctors were unable to save him.

Earlier this month, six members of the Arab Israeli community were slain in five separate shooting incidents in just one weekend, including a former city council member from Baqa al-Gharbiya.

More Arabs were murdered in 2023 than in any previous year, according to the Abraham Initiatives, a coexistence organization that tracks crime statistics. According to the report, 244 members of the Arab community were killed in Israel in 2023, over twice as many as the previous year.

So far 2024 is surpassing even those figures, with 43 deaths compared to 37 at this time last year.

The vast majority of homicides — some 88% — were the result of shooting, highlighting the problem of the proliferation of illegal firearms in Arab society, the organization said.

Many Arab Israeli community leaders put the blame on 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

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