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'2 months ago we were at his wedding and he was very happy'

Newlywed killed by stray bullet, 97th victim of Arab communal violence this year

Issam Salti, 24, killed at home in northern village, was unconnected to family dispute in which shots were fired; relative says violence is threat to all their lives; 5 arrested

Issam Salti, killed by an apparent stray bullet on October 9, 2021 (Courtesy)
Issam Salti, killed by an apparent stray bullet on October 9, 2021 (Courtesy)

A 24-year-old man was shot dead on Saturday evening in his home in the northern village of Ilut, apparently as the result of stray gunfire.

Issam Salti was killed by a bullet fired during a fight between two families in the village. He was presumed to have no involvement in the dispute.

Salti was the 97th apparent homicide victim in Arab society in 2021, according to a tally by the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit. The organization said that 80 of those killed this year were victims of gun violence.

Police said in a statement they were called to Ilut following reports of rock-throwing as part of a dispute between two families.

“While forces were operating in the village, gunfire was heard from a number of different directions,” the statement read.

Police said in the course of the shooting, a man standing in his home was hit by a bullet and taken to hospital in moderate to severe condition. Salti later died at the English Hospital in nearby Nazareth.

Police said five people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the shooting.

An unnamed relative told the Ynet news site that Salti got married just two months ago.

“About two months ago we were at his wedding and he was very happy — we were all happy. Unfortunately he was hit by the bullet that took his life and we lost a great man,” the relative said. “We haven’t yet digested this shocking disaster — how long will the violence and crime in Arab society continue?

The relative also said that for as long as the violence continues, they all live under threat.

“I can’t say that murders are unexpected. It’s possible that I will also be among those killed because this criminal situation threatens all of our lives,” the relative said.

On Thursday a 41-year-old man was shot dead in his home in Isfiya, near Haifa. Nael Mustafah was known to police and had survived an assassination attempt several months ago when a bomb exploded in his car.

Nael Mustafah (Courtesy)

Mustafah was arrested in May on suspicion that he shot at the home of a municipality worker. He was later seriously injured when a bomb planted in his vehicle detonated, causing him to lose a limb, though he eventually recovered.

Violent crime has risen to record levels in Arab communities in recent years.

Authorities have vowed to devote more resources to battle crime in Arab locales, after a series of recent shootings triggered the online #Arab_Lives_Matter campaign to protest the alleged lack of police action.

According to a 2020 Knesset report, some 400,000 illegal weapons are circulating in Israel, the vast majority in Arab communities.

Both government officials and civil society experts say the violence 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.

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