Hundreds protest in Umm al-Fahm over police response to crime in Arab community

Protesters call for resignation of local police chief; 7 arrested for violence in overnight demonstrations in Taybeh

Illustrative: People protest against rising violence in Arab communities, in Umm al-Fahm, February 5, 2021 (courtesy/ Kumi Yisrael)
Illustrative: People protest against rising violence in Arab communities, in Umm al-Fahm, February 5, 2021 (courtesy/ Kumi Yisrael)

Demonstrators marched Friday in the northern city of Umm al-Fahm, calling on the commander of the city’s police station to resign, following increased violent crime in the Arab community in Israel.

The protest, with over a thousand participants, began near the city hall, moved to the local police station, then to the city entrance and main highway, the Walla news site reported.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen, who lives in the city and participated in the protest, said: “We demand from the police and the government to stop talking and start doing.”

“The days are ticking by and the victims are piling up. The authorities have abandoned us to our fate, to sink in the blood of our children and a sea of illegal weapons,” Jabareen added.

A few dozen Jewish Israelis from various organizations participated in the protests in the Arab city. “It hurts, so we came to support a community that endures police violence” Arza Kutner, a woman from Tel Aviv, told Walla on Friday.

The protest was largely peaceful, however, police said there had been violent demonstrations overnight in the city of Taybeh.

Israeli Arab men pray during a February 5, 2021, protest after a student was killed in a shootout between criminal gangs and police, in the northern Arab-Israeli town of Umm-Al Fahm (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Police said Friday morning seven suspects were arrested for “blocking roads, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.”

Already angry protests against police inaction against rampant organized crime and violence in Arab communities were inflamed by the police killing of Ahmad Hejazi on Tuesday morning in his hometown of Tamra.

Hejazi, a 22-year-old nursing student, was shot during a gun battle between police and suspected criminals. According to police, two gunmen armed with automatic M-16 rifles were firing on a house when officers who had been lying in wait for the pair, apparently in a preplanned ambush, opened fire.

Hejazi, who had left his house when he heard shots fired, was shot and killed. A doctor — a passerby, police said — was wounded as well.

Nursing student Ahmad Hijazi, who was shot and killed in the crossfire between police and criminal gunmen on February 2, 2021 (Courtesy: Hijazi family)

Hejazi’s death immediately ignited protests in Arab towns across the country: Arab Israelis demonstrated in Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm and Tira, in addition to Tamra, a city of some 35,000 northeast of Haifa. A mass rally has been planned for Tamra on Saturday.

In January, former Umm al-Fahm mayor Suleiman Aghbariah was seriously injured by armed assailants.

Ending the spread of violence and organized crime is a major priority for Arab Israelis. In 2020, 96 Arab Israelis were violently killed, by far the highest annual toll in recent memory.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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