The leader of Hamas’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, blamed “the Zionist occupation” for the ongoing violent crime wave in Israel’s Arab community, in the first public comment by the Palestinian terror group on the issue.
“We hold the Zionist occupation responsible for the blood and the murders running wild inside the lands of 1948,” his office said in a statement.
“The security arms of the Zionist enemy play a dangerous role that aims to engage our people in another struggle to forget their religious and historical ties to the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank, and in exile,” the statement read.
Haniyeh also posted a video of these remarks, which are seen as part of efforts by Hamas — which is sworn to Israel’s destruction — to stoke tensions between communities inside Israel that could then descend into violence, Channel 12 reported, like in May 2021 when Israel saw some of the worst inter-communal disturbances since the state’s founding. That month, three people were killed and hundreds more hurt in days of violent unrest in cities with mixed Arab-Jewish populations, with long-simmering nationalist tensions between Jews and Arabs exploding in a barrage of firebombs, shootings and brawls.
The riots occurred during Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza.
According to the Abraham Initiatives, an anti-violence advocacy group, 166 Arabs have been killed in homicides this year, an all-time high and more than double the figure at the same time last year. Most of the victims were killed in shootings.
The latest killing occurred earlier Saturday when an imam was shot dead in Kafr Qara, two days after a double homicide in the Arab town.
Hebrew media reported that the 60-year-old Sheikh Sami Abed al-Latif was shot as he was exiting a mosque. Al-Latif was reportedly known for his role in helping resolve conflicts within the town.
The killings in Kafr Qara follow several other recent shootings that claimed multiple lives, including a quadruple homicide last month in Abu Snan, and came after two people were shot dead in separate incidents Thursday.
Most of the killings are part of a violent crime wave that has engulfed the Arab community in recent years. Authorities have blamed burgeoning organized crime and the proliferation of weaponry, while some have pointed to a failure by communities to cooperate with law enforcement to root out criminals.