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Cops close ranks around officer who killed mentally ill knifeman in Haifa

Public security minister offers condolences but says officer ‘acted as expected’; deceased man’s mother tried to call ambulance, not police, according to family

Security forces inspect the scene where a man was shot to death by a police officer after the man attempted to stab him, in Haifa, March 29, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
Security forces inspect the scene where a man was shot to death by a police officer after the man attempted to stab him, in Haifa, March 29, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)

Police officials are reportedly backing an officer who killed a mentally ill Arab man in Haifa on Monday, claiming that bodycam footage proves the cop “feared for his life.”

The officer’s superiors and comrades believe he will be exonerated by an internal investigation after he shot to death Munir Anabtawi, who allegedly attacked him with a knife, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, who oversees Israel’s police, said Tuesday that he spoke with the officer. Ohana asserted that he not only backs the officer but that the officer has his “full appreciation” for “acting as expected of him.”

“I share the grief of the family over their loss,” Ohana added.

Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana at the annual Jerusalem Conference of the ‘Besheva’ group in Jerusalem, on March 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Anabtawi’s brother said his mother attempted to call an ambulance to help him when he had what appeared to be a psychotic episode, but accidentally reached the police, who arrived with tragic results.

Amir Anabtawi told Channel 12 that the police is a “criminal organization” that “assassinated” his brother.

According to the police, Munir Anabtawi was running around with a knife and attacked an officer, who responded with live fire after fearing for his life.

“They’re cowards. They are not professional enough to deal with the problem,” Amir Anabtawi said.

“Why five bullets? Fine, give him one. He’s down. But one, and another, and another and another. They neutralized him,” he added sarcastically.

The officer was released after being questioned by the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department, but has not returned to work yet, Channel 12 said.

Israeli Police Chief Kobi Shabtai on January 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Israel’s Psychiatric Association sent a statement on Tuesday to Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, saying that he should “immediately establish training arrangements and intervention teams to treat cases involving [populations with] psychiatric [disorders].”

“It would have been possible to prevent unnecessary loss of life that stems only from lack of knowledge and/or appropriate training,” the statement added.

In security camera footage, Anabtawi could be seen brandishing what looks like a knife and chasing the police officer. The two scuffle as they run down the street, before the officer pulls out his gun and appears to shoot Anabtawi.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the predominantly-Arab Joint List party said, “The killing of 33-year-old Munir Anabtawi is merely the continuation of the aggressive treatment practiced by the police toward Arab citizens.”

“The police see Arab citizens as enemies, not equal citizens,” he added in a statement.

According to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit, 28 Arab people have been killed violently inside Israel since the beginning of 2021. Six were killed by police, while 22 were killed as a result of criminal activity.

Last year, a similar incident was reported, whereby police shot and killed a 30-year-old mentally ill man named Shirel Habura. The police said Habura attempted to stab a police officer.

Police also shot dead Iyad Halak, an autistic Arab man, last year in the Old City of Jerusalem, admitting later that they had mistaken him for a terrorist.

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