Police arrest 11 suspects in shooting at carwash in Arab town that claimed five lives

Cops say several others detained in connection with burgeoning crime in Arab community

Illustrative: Israel Police investigate the scene of a crime on June 2, 2021. (Israel Police)
Illustrative: Israel Police investigate the scene of a crime on June 2, 2021. (Israel Police)

Police said Friday they had arrested 11 individuals suspected in connection with the deadly mass shooting in a northern Arab town the previous day that claimed the lives of five people.

Officials said the suspects were tied to the feuding Bakri and Hariri crime organizations, with the ongoing enmity believed tied to the killing at the carwash in Yafa an-Naseriyye.

Authorities said several more people were arrested in connection with violent crime in the Arab community, which has risen to unprecedented bloody heights. A number of weapons were confiscated.

The running feud between the Bakri and Hariri crime families is thought to have previously claimed 26 lives.

The shooting appeared to be the deadliest non-terror mass killing since 2009, when six members of the Ushrenko family were murdered at their home in Rishon Lezion.

The five victims of Thursday’s shooting were evacuated to the hospital after being critically hurt at the carwash but were later pronounced dead. The shooters fled the scene.

Later in the evening a man aged about 30 was shot dead in a drive-by shooting near the central city of Kafr Qasim, while another man was moderately injured. The shooting caused the car to crash, also injuring a 46-year-old woman.

Police at the scene where five people were shot dead in the town of Yafa an-Naseriyye, June 8, 2023. (Fadi Amun/Flash90)

Along with the two deadly incidents, a 3-year-old girl and her father were seriously hurt after being struck by gunfire in Kafr Kanna, which like Yafa an-Naseriyye is near Nazareth.

In light of the events, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella group representing the community, announced a general strike Friday in the Arab community. The committee also called for protests to be held over the weekend.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the scene of the shooting in Yafa an-Naseriyye, as opposition politicians railed at his handling of an ongoing wave of violent crime in the Arab community which he promised before the elections to solve.

Speaking to reporters, Ben Gvir said he “shares the grief” of the bereaved families and wished a speedy recovery to the injured, including the man and child in Kafr Kanna.

“There has been a wild west in the Arab community for the past few years,” Ben Gvir said, adding that he and his staff were “working hard” to tackle the “root problems” but that there are obstacles.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene where five people were shot dead in the town of Yafa an-Naseriyye, June 8, 2023. (Fadi Amun/Flash90)

He touted two solutions, the first of which is establishing a national guard under his ministry, a move that has been decried by critics as potentially handing the far-right politician a “private militia” and has been slowed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ben Gvir said such a force is “so important,” expressing hope that it will start acting soon.

His second, more immediate solution, involves using the Shin Bet security agency to tackle the crime organizations, which Netanyahu said earlier Thursday he will do.

Ben Gvir demanded passing a cabinet resolution to involve the Shin Bet as early as this coming Sunday.

“With God’s help, we will do it,” he said.

Several coalition members including Ben Gvir have pushed for the Shin Bet’s involvement in combating crime, particularly in Arab communities where deadly violence has claimed many lives in recent years.

The Shin Bet is generally tasked only with fighting nationalistically motivated terror threats and many Arab leaders oppose the agency’s involvement in non-terror-related matters.

The scene of a shooting at a car wash in Yafa an-Naseriyye, June 8, 2023. (Magen David Adom)

Senior officials in the Shin Bet are reportedly also strongly opposed to the agency’s involvement in the fight against criminal organizations, worrying that it might not be legal to employ the tools it uses in the fight against Palestinian terror on civilians and that it could be harmful to do so.

The leader of the predominantly Arab Hadash-Ta’al opposition party launched an attack on the government Thursday, saying the blood spilled in the “shocking massacre” was on the hands of Netanyahu and Ben Gvir.

In a statement, MK Ayman Odeh said Arab community leaders “have for years been calling for getting the weapons off the streets and for cracking down on crime organizations.”

He urged the government to “immediately fire” Ben Gvir, echoing calls from other government critics.

“We won’t accept this negligence. We will cause the whole country to strike until this stops,” he added.

Ra’am chief MK Mansour Abbas, who unlike Odeh was part of the previous coalition, said it was “a difficult day in Arab society” and that “murder has become a routine.”

“We’re in a catastrophe,” Abbas told Channel 12.

He added that there have been calls for two years to involve the Shin Bet “and it hasn’t solved the problem,” and called to give the police “new tools.” He also urged police to do a massive roundup of Arab crime bosses.

Leader of the Ra’am party Mansour Abbas, left; leader of Hadash-Ta’al Ayman Odeh, right. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File); (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

Police, politicians and community leaders have struggled over the past several years to rein in criminal activity driving the spiking violence, which has ramped up in recent months.

Many community leaders blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars, and violence against women. The communities have also suffered from years of neglect by state authorities.

The head of a police unit tasked with fighting crime among Arab Israelis, Deputy Commissioner Natan Bozna, resigned on Tuesday. No reason for the departure was given by Bozna or the force, and police did not announce a replacement.

The announcement came a day after Ben Gvir said he would appoint a policy coordinator to help address the rampant bloodshed.

On Monday, MKs from Hadash-Ta’al met with Netanyahu to discuss the problem and demand urgent action to combat the crime wave. The sides agreed with Netanyahu on forming a committee for fighting violence in the Arab community that the prime minister himself will head, Netanyahu’s office said.

Analysts say the killings have been driven by underworld violence fueled by powerful gangs engaged in extortion, loan sharking, protection rackets and other criminal activities.

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