The Haifa District Court sentenced two cousins Sunday to 17 years behind bars after they were found guilty of murdering a man over rumors he had winked at a female member of their family in 2020.
Amir and Farah Barkat were convicted of conspiring to attack 32-year-old Najib Abdallah following rumors of his interest in their relative, who was 20 at the time. The court also ruled that the two must each pay NIS 75,000 ($20,000) in damages to the family of the deceased.
The Barkat cousins were accused of luring Abdallah into a meeting on the evening of June 28, 2020, under the false pretense that they had a car for sale matching a model they knew he had been interested in purchasing. Abdallah came to meet the cousins at a Druze war memorial just outside the town of Kisra-Sumei with his two young daughters, aged 3 and three months, in tow. After he exited his vehicle, the Barkats attacked Abdallah with rocks and heavy blows.
Abdallah was able to escape but then collapsed nearby, where two women found him and called for an ambulance. Paramedics attempted to revive him, but he was declared dead by doctors upon arriving at a nearby hospital.
The Barkat cousins initially fled the scene, but later turned themselves in to the police and admitted to attacking Abdallah. In their interrogations, they stated that they had not intended to kill him, and said they had sought to confront him with the rumors that he had winked at their relative.
The sentencing of the cousins comes with Israel’s Arab community reeling from a burgeoning homicide rate. According to the Abraham Initiatives — an organization specializing in Jewish-Arab relations — some 75 percent of murders in the Arab community emanate from organized crime, while the rest is attributable to tribal blood feuds, femicides involving family members, and other criminal activity.
The homicide rate has been rising every year since at least 2018, with the exception of 2022, when it fell by 16%. According to police statistics, in 2018 there were 74 people murdered in the Arab community. That number rose to 94 in 2019, to 109 in 2020, and spiked to 126 in 2021.
So far in 2023, there have been 112 homicides in Arab communities, on track to far surpass 2021 as the deadliest year.
Jeremy Sharon and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.