The director-general of an Arab town’s municipality was shot dead on Monday evening, the latest killing in a deadly wave of rampant violence across Arab communities. The suspected murder sparked a call for intervention from the interior minister and the Shin Bet security service, as authorities have struggled to rein in the spate of killings.
The victim was named by the anti-violence advocacy group the Abraham Initiatives as Abed Rahman Kashua, 60, the director-general of the municipality of Tira, an Arab-majority town in central Israel. He was also a senior figure in Israel’s Southern Islamic Movement and a sheik at a local mosque, Channel 12 reported.
Kashua was among three men shot near the town’s police station, according to Hebrew media reports. He sustained critical injuries and the other two victims were lightly-to-moderately injured and conscious when they arrived by car at the city’s police station to seek help. They were transferred to Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba for treatment, police said.
Kashua later died of his wounds.
Police said they were investigating the shooting and sweeping the area for evidence. The deputy commissioner of the Israel Police’s Central District Command, Avi Biton, said the investigation was a top priority for the district “in light of the seriousness of the incident, in which a public official in a government institution was killed…”
After the killing, Interior Minister Moshe Arbel asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene an urgent meeting with the Shin Bet security service to ask for a higher level of involvement in the investigation and in the fight against violence in Arab communities.
In a separate incident on Monday, a man in his 30s was shot dead in the northern town of Reineh.
In June, the Netanyahu government signaled that it wanted to see the Shin Bet more directly involved in fighting violent crime in Arab communities, despite reported objections from the security service’s chief and the attorney general. The Shin Bet is generally tasked only with fighting nationalistically motivated terror threats, and many Arab leaders oppose the agency’s involvement in non-terror-related matters.
The deaths Monday brought the number of fatalities linked to criminal violence in Israel’s Arab community to 152 since the start of the year, mostly in shootings. During the same time frame last year, 68 were killed.
The killings are part of a violent crime wave that has engulfed the Arab community in recent years. Many community leaders blame the police, whom they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence. They also point to decades of neglect and discrimination by government offices as the root cause of the problem.
On Thursday, the Israel Police said its officers had arrested 85 suspects and detained an additional 48 people for questioning in a large operation aimed at cracking down on violent crime in the Arab community.