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Arab Israeli man shot dead on his way home from a protest against violent crime

Muhammed Nasser Aghbariah, 21, of Umm al-Fahm is 4th member of his family murdered in past 18 months; clashes break out in city after shooting, mayor threatens to resign

Umm al-Fahm residents hold prayers on Route 65 to protest the shooting death of Muhammed Nasser Aghbariah in the northern Arab Israeli city, January 22, 2021.
Umm al-Fahm residents hold prayers on Route 65 to protest the shooting death of Muhammed Nasser Aghbariah in the northern Arab Israeli city, January 22, 2021.

An Arab Israeli man was shot dead Friday in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm as he returned from a protest against violent crime in the community and the Israeli government’s response to it.

Muhammed Nasser Aghbariah, 21, was the fourth person in his family to be murdered in the last 18 months. His other relatives were killed as part of a feud between families, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The suspects in Aghbariah’s shooting fled the scene and police were searching for them.

Around 100 Umm al-Fahm residents protested the shooting, briefly blocking Route 65 as prayers were held there. Police said rocks and a molotov cocktail were then thrown at officers, who responded with riot dispersal means. The protesters also burned tires.

Four demonstrators were arrested. There were no reports of injuries.

Umm al-Fahm Mayor Samir Sobhi Mahameed threatened to resign in a month if a plan isn’t advanced by that time to tackle crime in Arab Israeli communities.

“I’ve been the State of Israel’s punching bag for long enough,” he told Kan.

Ara’ara local council head Mudar Younes, who also chairs a committee of Arab mayors, threatened a similar move. Other mayors were planning on following suit, the Ynet news site reported.

“If there is no solution, I’ll also resign. We’re breaking the silence and calling on all council heads to join,” Qalansawe Mayor Abdulbast Salameh was quoted saying.

Ending the spread of violence and organized crime is a major priority for Arab Israelis. In 2020, 96 Arab Israelis were violently killed, by far the highest annual toll in recent memory.

In a meeting with Arab mayors on Sunday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to pass a wide-ranging plan to combat violence and crime in Arab communities, likening the struggle against organized crime to the fight against terrorism.

It was not the first time, however, that Netanyahu has vowed to pass an anti-violence plan. In November, the premier made much the same pledge to Joint List MK Mansour Abbas’s parliamentary committee on violence and crime in the Arab sector.

Following the meeting, Mahameed told The Times of Israel he was “cautiously optimistic” about Netanyahu taking action on the issue.

Netanyahu has recently been campaigning for support from Arab Israelis ahead of the March elections, in a stark about-face from his party’s previous unsubstantiated warnings of electoral fraud in Arab communities and repeated attacks on Arab lawmakers.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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