A man was shot and killed early Sunday in an Arab town in northern Israel, with police saying he was involved in a drive-by shooting and then injured in an exchange of fire when the gunmen turned their weapons on an intervening police officer.
Hebrew media said that Omar Sawaed, in his 20s, was shot while in a vehicle in Kafr Yasif, after which he was thrown out of the moving car. He was critically injured and was later pronounced dead.
The initial circumstances of Sawaed’s death were unclear, leading some locals, including relatives of Sawaed, to accuse police of having pushed him from their vehicle.
Israel Police said in a statement that a police officer driving a car at around 1 a.m. noticed a drive-by shooting in progress at a home in the town.
The officer attempted to arrest the three suspects involved and fired a warning shot into the air. The suspects responded by shooting at the officer, who returned fire hitting one of them. The other two suspects then threw the man who was shot from the vehicle, and fled the scene, police said.
Without naming the injured man, police said he was a resident of Kafr Yasif and was taken to Galil Medical Center for treatment, where he later died.
The Police Internal Investigations Division was examining the incident, the statement said.
One eyewitness quoted by the Ynet news site said that people who were with Sawaed in the car “threw him out after he was shot, and fled. People chased the car and didn’t manage to reach it.”
Another witness argued that it was clear that the shooter had aimed for Sawaed’s upper body, adding: “He could have shot him in the lower body and not killed him.”
A relative of the victim said the family was “shocked” to receive the news.
“What did he do for a police officer to behave this way? In Jewish localities, we don’t see such behavior.”
Arab communities in Israel have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly, but not exclusively, by organized crime.
Arab Israelis say police have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and for years largely ignored the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars, and attacks on women.