‘Anger and frustration’: Family, locals blame police for Nazareth double homicide

Former northern police chief says incident could have been prevented if the force had invested more resources in the Arab city

Undated photos of Firas Heib and his son Fares, who were shot dead in an apparent underworld killing in Nazareth, December 20, 2022. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Undated photos of Firas Heib and his son Fares, who were shot dead in an apparent underworld killing in Nazareth, December 20, 2022. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Following Tuesday’s double murder in Nazareth of Firas Heib and his 2-year-old son Fares, Firas’s father Khaled Heib on Wednesday accused the Israel Police of not doing enough to prevent it.

Speaking to the Ynet news site, Heib said the police bore blame, as they were aware of the volatile situation in the city but did nothing about it.

“They know everything. They knew that a person was murdered [in Nazareth] a week ago,” he said.

Heib rejected Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai’s assumption that the incident was a criminal underworld hit, claiming his son was not a target and was not involved in criminal activity.

“It’s not true. Everyone in Nazareth knows us,” he said.

Heib was the one who found his son and grandson after they were shot while parked outside his home.

Khaled Heib, who lost a son and grandson in a double homicide in the northern city of Nazareth, speaks to the Ynet news site. (Ynet)

“I was at home with my wife. We heard gunshots from outside. I went out and didn’t see anyone. Then I came and saw Firas and his son lying on top of him. They were both covered with blood. They were rushed to the hospital and we were told that they had passed 30 minutes later,” he said in an interview with Channel 13.

“My grandson had not yet seen anything [in life]. How can someone kill a 2-year-old child? I’ve never seen a smarter boy than him. In kindergarten they would send us photos of him every day, telling us how good he was.”

Former Northern Police District commander Yaakov Borovsky agreed that the double murder in Nazareth was the result of a broader problem that could be resolved with sufficient resources.

“There’s no question, the state is to blame,” he told Ynet. “This wasn’t a quarrel between criminals but ongoing power struggles. If Nazareth had 20 police teams with the intelligence and technology needed to address this issue that has claimed multiple lives, we would have been able to reduce the murders by 80%,” he argued.

“You can’t ignore the reality and say, ‘This is a cultural issue,'” Borovsky said. “The police have to protect the country’s citizens, period. If the identity of a potential killer is known to them, it’s not enough to warn the person being threatened. It requires legislation that will limit the suspect’s movement. The state is not doing enough to address this issue.”

Illustrative: A murder scene in Nazareth on September 24, 2021. (Magen David Adom)

Describing the general atmosphere in Nazareth following the latest killing, a local tour guide told the Walla news site that “everyone here feels terrible” as the Arab city prepares for Christmas.

“One cannot describe the pain and unease when we experience such a loss just before Christmas,” he said. “It sinks in, even among guests of the city.”

The tour guide, who asked to remain anonymous, told Walla there was “a great sense of anger” among locals. “They’re angry about the murder and about the situation in the Arab community. They’re angry because they’re frustrated. Some have left the city because of it.”

Police have said they believe the shooting was linked to underworld activity. Visiting the scene of the murder, Shabtai said the incident was due to “a number of conflicts and as a result of pressure on certain families, indications of which we’ve seen on the ground.”

On Tuesday, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid offered his condolences to the Heib family and vowed authorities would “do everything to bring the murderers to justice.”

Outgoing Public Security Minister Omer Barlev called the death of the toddler “horrific” and said those responsible were “brutal criminals who will stop at nothing to harm their opponents.”

He vowed that authorities’ campaign against crime in Arab society would continue, but added that “it is very complex and there are no shortcuts.”

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev speaks during a ceremony after the largest-ever police operation against illegal gun dealers, in the northern city of Nazareth, November 9, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

The murder in Nazareth brings the number of members of the Arab community killed in violent incidents to 110 since the start of 2022, according to the Abraham Initiatives watchdog, which tracks the violence. Of the victims, 93 were shot dead.

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