Police kill Arab man after ‘coming under fire’ during undercover raid in Rahat

Border Police set out to arrest two Palestinians who were illegally in Israel, one suspected of terror activity; slain 27-year-old named as Sanad Salem al-Harbar

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

View of the Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel, on April 8, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
View of the Bedouin city of Rahat in southern Israel, on April 8, 2019. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

A 27-year-old Rahat resident was shot dead by undercover police officers in the southern Bedouin city early Tuesday.

Border Police officers along with the Shin Bet were attempting to arrest two Palestinian suspects who were in Israel without entry permits. One of them was also suspected of terror activity, a security official told the Times of Israel.

After one of the suspects was detained, shots were fired at the officers from several directions, according to police.

Police said the officers returned fire, hitting one suspect who “endangered their lives.” No police casualties were reported.

The suspect’s firearm along with a magazine was recovered at the scene, police said.

The man was taken for medical treatment, but shortly thereafter was declared dead by medics.

A pistol recovered from the scene where a man opened fire on undercover officers in the southern city of Rahat on March 15, 2022. Police shot and killed the man. (Police spokesperson)

He was later identified as Sanad Salem al-Harbar, a resident of the city, and not one of the original suspects police had set out to arrest.

Rahat Mayor Fayez Abu Sahiban said he condemned the police shooting on Tuesday, and added that he hopes police arrest those holding illegal firearms.

“I hope it does not lead to riots. Residents told me that the young man who was killed was a passerby, and was not connected to the shooting,” Abu Sahiban told the Kan public broadcaster.

Rahat has seen several violent incidents in recent months, including brawls and shootings.

In late January, a 7-year-old boy was shot in the neck during an apparent shooting between criminals in the city, following a violent brawl that left three men wounded.

Arab communities in Israel 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 Arab community has also suffered from decades of neglect.

The Abraham Initiatives, which monitors and campaigns against violence in the Arab community, said there were 125 Arabs — an all-time record — killed in Israel in 2021 as a result of violence and crime.

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

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