Police declare significant decrease in Arab Israeli crime amid major op

Force reports targeting 386 leading perpetrators of crime in Arab society; law enforcement officials say 37% fewer shooting incidents recorded so far this year

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A ceremony after the largest-ever police operation against illegal gun dealers, in Tel Aviv, on November 9, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
A ceremony after the largest-ever police operation against illegal gun dealers, in Tel Aviv, on November 9, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Police on Thursday touted a 37 percent drop in shooting incidents in Arab Israeli communities so far this year, as the force ramped up activity in Arab locales under a major operation dubbed “Safe Route.”

According to a statement, as of February, there have been 664 shooting incidents in 2022, compared to 1,052 during the same period last year.

Police said that since the operation began last year, officers have acted against 386 “targets,” major perpetrators of crime in Arab society.

Hundreds of weapons have been seized and 280 suspects have been arrested, 180 of whom have been indicted, police said.

Police added that in the past 4 months, officers foiled 25 planned murders by criminal organizations and gangs, with eleven indictments filed for attempted murder.

“On the one hand, we see a significant increase in arrests… and on the other hand a significant decrease in the number of shooting incidents,” said Commander Yigal Ezra, a senior officer in a unit whose directive is fighting crime in Arab society.

“At the same time, our officers recently thwarted a series of assassination plans while carrying out impressive intelligence work and reaching the criminals before the shooting,” he added.

Commander Yigal Ezra. (Israel Police)

The operation began as Arab communities have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly, but not exclusively, by organized crime.

Arab Israelis blame 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 Abraham Initiatives, which monitors and campaigns against violence in the Arab community, said there were 125 Arabs killed in Israel in 2021 as a result of violence and crime, of whom 62 were below the age of 30. So far this year, there have been 14 apparent homicides in the Arab community.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Public Security Minister Omer Barlev have vowed to crack down on the violence, as well as on illegal weapons.

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