An Arab Israeli man was gunned down overnight in a drive-by shooting in Deir Hanna in Israel’s north, as violent crime in the community continued to spiral out of control.
According to Hebrew media reports, Jihad Hammoud, 33, was killed and two others were wounded in the shooting, when an individual in a passing car opened fire on the three men while they were out running. The three men were brought to Poriya Hospital in Tiberias, where Hammoud was declared dead.
A relative of Hammoud told Ynet that he owned a carwash and was not involved in any organized crime. “He didn’t get in conflicts with anyone. It’s very strange that they murdered him and hurt his friends,” the relative said. “He didn’t feel like he was in any danger — he was a respectable man who had good relations with everyone.”
Violent crime in Israel’s Arab community has raged out of control in recent months, even as the government and security officials have vowed to crack down on the problem. According to the Abraham Initiatives organization, Hammoud is the 99th Arab to be killed in Israel in a violent crime since the start of 2021, and the 84th Arab Israeli citizen.
Among the 99 incidents, 82 were gun deaths, according to the group, 48 of them involved the killing of someone under age 30, and 86 of those killed were men. The exact figures are somewhat disputed by various media reports. Last year, 96 Arab Israelis were killed in communal violence, according to the Abraham Initiatives.
Ronen Bar, who began his tenure as head of the Shin Bet on Wednesday, vowed to use the security agency to tackle violent crime in the Arab sector, although the security agency’s involvement in civilian affairs remains controversial.
“There has been a lot of talk lately about the growing violence in general and in Arab society in particular,” Bar said at a handover ceremony. “The agency will not stand idly by,” he said, vowing to study the issue and present a plan that would strike the right balance in terms of the agency’s involvement. “This is obviously a national mission.”
On Monday, 43-year-old lawyer Ghanim Jabareen succumbed to wounds he sustained when he was shot Friday while leaving a mosque in Umm al-Fahm, becoming the 98th victim of apparent homicide in Arab society in 2021. The 97th victim was a 24-year-old newlywed killed by a stray bullet in the northern village of Ilut on Saturday.
Both government officials and civil society experts say the violence in the Arab community is the fruit of decades of state neglect.
Over half of Arab Israelis live under the poverty line. Their towns and cities often have crumbling infrastructure, poor public services and few job prospects, leading some young people to collaborate with organized crime.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chaired a ministerial meeting earlier this month to address the epidemic of violent crime in Israel’s Arab communities. Ministers decided to utilize the Shin Bet and the military in addressing the problem, although Public Security Minister Omer Barlev later ruled out the possibility of IDF involvement.
A task force established by the government will focus on the issue of illegal weapons, said the Prime Minister’s Office. The Justice Ministry will promote a series of laws to provide law enforcement with greater tools to crack down on illegal weapons, including minimum sentences for infractions.
“The situation regarding violence in the Arab sector has reached a red line,” Bennett said at the time. “The problem was pushed aside and neglected for years until it reached outrageous proportions, as we have seen over the past year.”
The prime minister said that the “Arab community must understand that the security forces are not the enemy — they are the solution.” He added: “Dealing with this magnitude will not take a day or two but we are on it. We are taking action and will continue to do so.”
Emanuel Fabian, Aaron Boxerman and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.