ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Dozens of police prosecutors, detectives ask to quit understaffed force — report

Surge in resignation requests in past 2 months comes as police struggle to deal with crime wave in Arab community; senior officer: ‘There’s nobody to investigate the murders’

Illustrative: Police at the scene of a suspected homicide in Ashdod, February 21, 2023. (Flash90)
Illustrative: Police at the scene of a suspected homicide in Ashdod, February 21, 2023. (Flash90)

Over the past two months, 40 police prosecutors and dozens of detectives have asked to resign from the Israel Police, which is already suffering a manpower shortage amid a wave of violent crime, according to a report Saturday.

Police are unlikely to approve the requests, but many of the officers are threatening to take their cases to the labor court, the Kan public broadcaster cited sources familiar with the matter as saying.

“There’s nobody to investigate the murders,” a senior officer lamented to Kan. The police force was already burdened with a manpower shortage of 5,000 even before the wave of resignations.

The senior officer added that deploying Border Police officers en masse to carry out arrests would not solve the issue since there is a lack of detectives to probe cases and of prosecutors to file indictments.

The wave of resignation requests comes as 102 members of the Arab community have been killed in homicides since the beginning of the year, in a spiraling crime epidemic that has claimed the lives of 10 people over the past three days alone.

Police have so far only solved 10 of these cases in 2023 due to the lack of professional personnel, and are also finding difficulties pursuing other matters, Kan reported.

File: Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (left) and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, April 20, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Critics and anti-government protesters have pointed the finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government was sworn in on December 29, 2022, as well as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, on whom half a dozen former police chiefs called to step aside on Friday as the rampant bloodshed continued.

On Saturday evening, two men were shot dead in separate violent incidents in the central Arab-majority cities of Qalansawe and Jaljulia, law enforcement and medics said.

The deaths came hours after a 21-year-old resident of a Bedouin community in the Negev desert was stabbed to death during a scuffle with foreign workers near the southern city of Ofakim. Police said it appeared the victim was part of a group attempting to steal agricultural equipment.

On Friday, an 18-year-old woman was shot dead in northern Israel; and on Thursday, five people were killed in the northern Arab town of Yafa an-Naseriyye, in one of the worst single acts of criminal violence in recent years.

Also Thursday, a man aged about 30 was shot dead in a drive-by shooting near the central city of Kafr Qasim, while another man was moderately injured. The shooting caused the car to crash, also injuring a 46-year-old woman.

Along with the deadly incidents, a three-year-old girl and her father were seriously hurt on Thursday after being struck by gunfire in Kafr Kanna, also near Nazareth.

Thousands of Arab Israelis protested on Friday against the killings and called for action by authorities.

Demonstrators carry a banner bearing pictures of five Arab Israelis who were shot dead a day earlier, as they protest against their killing in the village of Yafa, west of Nazareth, on June 9, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Earlier this week, Netanyahu announced a decision to form a steering committee to discuss “solutions to the wave of murders in the Arab society,” following a meeting with Arab lawmakers.

They demanded urgent action to combat the crime wave.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said he was “determined to stop this chain of murders” and would see that happen by not only reinforcing police but also “with the help of the Shin Bet.”

Police, politicians and community leaders have struggled over the past several years to rein in criminal activity driving the spiking violence, which has appeared to ramp up in recent months.

Experts say powerful Arab gangs have amassed large quantities of illegal weapons over the past two decades and are involved in drugs, arms and human trafficking, prostitution, extortion and money laundering.

Many Arab community leaders blame authorities and the police for the crime wave, saying they have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignored the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.

The head of a police unit tasked with fighting crime in the Arab community, Deputy Commissioner Natan Bozna, resigned on Tuesday.

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