Alleged ‘money man’ for crime family killed in drive-by shooting

Attack brings this year’s record death toll in Arab community to 159; police estimate just over a third of victims are part of criminal outfits

Illustrative: Police at the scene of a quadruple homicide in the northern Arab town of Abu Snan, August 22, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Illustrative: Police at the scene of a quadruple homicide in the northern Arab town of Abu Snan, August 22, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

An Arab Israeli man was shot dead Tuesday evening on a northern highway, in an apparent gangland hit.

The victim was identified as Abed al-Latif Zaytoon, a resident of Nahf in his 30s, who Hebrew media reports said served as a “money man” for the Abu Latif crime family.

He was the latest member of Israel’s Arab community to be killed in a violent crime wave that has seen homicides surge to record levels in 2023.

According to police, the man was critically wounded by gunfire from a passing vehicle while driving near the Meggido interchange. Paramedics took him to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Police announced an investigation into the shooting and dispatched officers to the scene to search for suspects.

A statement from police said the shooting appeared linked to a dispute between rival criminal organizations.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, an anti-violence advocacy group, Zaytoon was the 159th Arab to be violently killed in Israel since the start of the year, the vast majority of them in shootings. During the same period in 2022, 72 members of the community died in homicides.

Citing estimates that police sources shared with a senior municipal official, Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, reported Tuesday that 35% of those killed this year are believed to be in crime groups, most of them low-ranking “soldiers.”

Another quarter of the victims are relatives of gangsters but have no involvement in crime themselves, with some believed to have been slain in retaliation killings by rival outfits.

The remaining 40% of the victims were estimated to have killed for accumulating “gray market” debts, over local or business disputes that involved criminals, or for their political or communal activities that the gangs viewed as a threat. Others were simply caught in the crossfire.

These remaining homicides also include the killings of women and children by family members.

Most of the murders remain unsolved, with police lacking precise intelligence about motives. They do, however, usually know whether those killed were part of the underworld as a result of the force’s efforts to keep tabs on gangs and their members.

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