Director of Qalansawe Municipality sprayed with bullets, seriously wounded

Ashraf Khatib shot while sitting in his car, rushed to hospital in unstable condition; interior minister says attack crosses ‘a red line’

Illustrative: Police at the scene of a  crime in Holon, December 21, 2015. (Moti Karelitz/Flash90)
Illustrative: Police at the scene of a crime in Holon, December 21, 2015. (Moti Karelitz/Flash90)

The director-general of the Qalansawe Municipality in central Israel was shot and seriously wounded while sitting in his car on Saturday night.

Magen David Adom paramedics took the 46-year-old Ashraf Khatib to Beilinson Hospital in Petak Tikva for emergency treatment. He was sedated and on a respirator in unstable condition.

Photos from the scene showed the driver’s side door of Khatib’s white SUV riddled with bullets.

The shooters fled the scene. Police said they opened an investigation and were probing the background of the incident.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri spoke with Qalansawe Mayor Abdel Basset al-Salama, calling the incident an “attempted assassination.”

Deri said the incident constituted the “crossing of a red line” and vowed to step up the fight against criminal violence in the Arab Israeli community.

Deri said he will appeal to Public Security Minister Amir Ohana for help apprehending the suspects and said he will discuss the issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“It’s extremely grave when someone tries to murder a municipality’s director-general, a senior public servant. The violence in the Arab Israeli community is very severe and tonight broke another record,” Deri said.

Ten years ago, a previous director-general of the Qalansawe Municipality, 38-year-old Viam Zamiro, was murdered while in his car, the Walla news site reported.

Violent crime has long plagued Israeli Arab communities, and has been the focus of recent protests, including a rally of around 10,000 people in Umm al-Fahm on Friday.

Thousands of Arab Israelis demonstrate in the mostly Arab city of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel on March 5, 2021, against violence and organized crime calling upon the Israeli police to stop a wave of intracommunal violence. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Demonstrators accuse authorities and police of neglecting the problem.

Organized crime is largely seen as the engine of the spread of violence in Arab cities and towns. Arab Israelis blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations. Since the beginning of 2021, 22 Arabs have died violently in Israel, according to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit.

Netanyahu announced last week that his government will funnel NIS 150 million ($45 million) to combating violence in Arab communities. Arab politicians and civil society organizations — who had hoped for billions more — harshly criticized the plan as too little, too late.

The number of homicides among Jewish Israelis since 2016 has remained relatively constant: 38 in 2016, 44 in 2017, 35 in 2018, and 36 in 2019, according to the Israel Police.

Among Arabs, however, it has climbed over that same period: 64 in 2016, 67 in 2017, 71 in 2018, 89 in 2019, and 96 in 2020.

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