A man in his 40s was shot and killed on Saturday afternoon in front of stunned onlookers in Jaffa, a neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
Eyewitnesses to the shooting told police that the man was shot while being chased through the port’s parking lot by gunmen before he jumped into the sea. The gunmen fired at least 10 times, others told the Ynet news site.
He was identified as Abed Qazaz, a criminal known to police who was a resident of the area, a law enforcement official said.
Qazaz was unconscious when he was pulled from the water. He received treatment for his gunshot wounds from medics who had been manning a nearby COVID-19 testing facility.
“While we were at the nearby coronavirus testing facility, we heard gunshots, and we ran in that direction, where [passersby] showed us near the pier a man around 40 years old in the water,” a Magen David Adom medic said.
MDA said its medics rushed the man to Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, where his death was declared by medical staff shortly thereafter.
The port is a popular entertainment center, frequented by thousands of visitors at weekends.
According to Channel 12, the shooting took place close to a group of children who were participating in activities with the Scouts movement.
“Someone got out of a vehicle, followed by two masked men, who shot him. The promenade was full of people,” an eyewitness told the network.
Police said they opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, and said the background was most likely a conflict between local criminals.
An unnamed police official told Channel 12 the criminals’ willingness to carry out the attack in such conditions, where many others could have been hurt, showed an erosion of police deterrence and was very concerning.
There were no immediate arrests.
Qazaz was released from prison a year and a half ago, after being involved in an incident where a police officer was run over, according to the Ynet news site. Previously he had been jailed for six years in a plea deal over the kidnapping and killing of a rival merchant in 2005.
He was also known as a former associate of the criminal boss Izat Hamad, who was shot dead in July in Tel Aviv. However, police officials told Channel 12 that they ruled out the possibility of Qazaz’s killing being revenge for Hamad’s assassination.
Since the beginning of 2021, there have been 104 homicides in Arab communities, according to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit. Some 89 were citizens of Israel, and another 15 were Palestinians, either from East Jerusalem or with Israeli residency.
With over two months left in the year, 2021 is already set to be the bloodiest year for the Arab community since a crime wave began there several years ago.
Officials blame the violence on powerful organized crime rackets that have emerged following decades of state neglect and lawlessness in Arab cities and towns.
Separately on Saturday, an Arab man in his 20s was shot and moderately wounded near the northern town of I’billin. He was taken to Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center, along with another man suffering from anxiety, who witnessed the incident.