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Man gunned down in Bi’na, marking 100th Arab Israeli homicide in 2021

Police open investigation into shooting as crime in Arab communities continues to surge, with 2021 set to be deadliest year in recent memory

Police at the scene of the murder of Sahar Ismail, the education minister's aide for Arab society, in the northern Israeli town of Rameh, on August 15, 2021. (Flash90)
Police at the scene of the murder of Sahar Ismail, the education minister's aide for Arab society, in the northern Israeli town of Rameh, on August 15, 2021. (Flash90)

A man was gunned down in the northern Arab Israeli town of Bi’na on Monday morning, according to police and local officials.

In a statement, police said that unknown gunmen had fired from a passing car at another vehicle. “As a result of the shooting, a man in his forties was critically wounded. His death was later confirmed by medical staff,” police said.

Bi’na Mayor Ali Abu Iyad identified the victim as 44-year-old Salim Abd al-Karim Hasarma. His brother, Ibrahim Hasarma, was killed by gunfire in December 2019.

“There was a car chase and he fled for his life before being killed. The violence in Arab society is overwhelming, and the police have yet to solve the murders we’ve seen in Bi’na. They show up to patrol and leave without doing anything,” Abu Iyad said in a phone call.

Abu Iyad attested that the Hasarwa family had been engaged in a conflict with another local family, whom he declined to name. But he emphasized that he could not confirm whether the dispute was related to the gunfire.

An investigation has been opened into the shooting, police said. While the police report initially identified the site of the shooting as Deir al-Asad, the town mayor confirmed it had actually taken place in neighboring Bi’na. A spokesperson for the Israel Police’s Northern Division did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

CCTV footage from the scene showed the victim driving down an alley, chased by his pursuers in a second car. He is then gunned down as he tries to escape on foot.

The apparent murder marks a grim milestone: Since the beginning of 2021, there have been 100 homicides in Arab communities, according to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit. Some 85 were citizens of Israel, and another 15 were Palestinians, either from East Jerusalem or with Israeli residency.

“One hundred murdered since the beginning of the year in Arab society. Thousands injured, tens of thousands traumatized, and a fear that belongs to each and every one of us,” tweeted Meretz minister Issawi Frej.

With over two months left in the year, 2021 is on track to be the bloodiest year for the Arab community since a crime wave began there several years ago.

The murder rate has risen sharply since 2015, when 64 Arab Israelis were killed, in comparison to 38 Jewish Israelis. In 2020, Jewish Israelis saw a similar 42 homicides, while Arab Israelis saw 96 violent deaths, according to Abraham Initiatives.

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Government officials blame the violence on powerful organized crime rackets that have emerged following decades of state neglect and lawlessness in Arab cities and towns.

The violence is abetted by a tide of illegal weaponry. Hundreds of thousands of illegal guns are believed to be held in Israel, many of them in Arab communities. Police have sought to crack down on the free-flowing weapons — through gun collection programs and arms raids — but seemingly to little avail.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government has vowed to take exceptional means to end the rising murder rate. In early October, ministers signed off on involving the powerful Shin Bet security agency in the effort, in an unusual and controversial move. The agency, which has powerful legal and technological tools at its disposal, is best known for operating against Palestinian terror suspects.

“We are losing the country,” Bennett said during the weekly cabinet meeting, emphasizing the dire situation among Arab Israelis.

On Sunday, the government advanced a proposal that would expand the ability of the Israel Police to conduct searches without court warrants, in a controversial step intended to curb the crime wave.

“We’re at war. We must give the police and law enforcement agencies better tools to succeed in their missions,” Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar told the cabinet, according to his spokesperson.

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