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Police shoot dead mentally ill Arab man, say he charged at cops with knife

Man’s mother says she called cops to the scene for help; nonprofit reports 6 Arabs have been killed by police inside Israel since the beginning of 2021

Security forces inspect the scene where a man was shot to death by a police officer after the man attempted to stab him, in Haifa, March 29, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)
Security forces inspect the scene where a man was shot to death by a police officer after the man attempted to stab him, in Haifa, March 29, 2021. (Roni Ofer/Flash90)

Police on Monday shot and killed a 33-year-old Arab man with special needs who they said tried to attack an officer with a knife in central Haifa.

According to the police, Munir Anabtawi was running around with the weapon when his mother called the cops to the scene for help.

“Some officers arrived at the scene, saw him next to his house on the ground floor. He drew a knife and ran after an officer with it, injuring him lightly on his face,” a Haifa Police spokesperson said.

An officer then shot Anabtawi in the back, critically wounding him. He was taken to Rambam Hospital in the city, where he died of his injuries.

Anabtawi’s sister Shirin told Channel 13, “I went to my parents’ house, I tried to watch over him, but he went down the street. Fearing for people’s lives and knowing that this is a person with a mental disability, my mother called the police, who came and shot Munir in the back and killed him.”

The family accused police of responsibility for the death, with his mother arguing that officers “lost control.”

“He didn’t have a knife in his hand, he was running away from the cops,” said Shirin, according to the Kan public broadcaster. “Mom asked for him to be taken to get treatment.”

She said the situation did not justify shooting five bullets, three of which hit him, according to forensic analysis.

According to a police spokesperson, “The officer felt that he was in immediate, life-threatening danger.”

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department said it launched an “initial probe” into the shooting.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” the PIID said in a statement later on Monday, adding that the officer who opened fire was questioned by interrogators.

In security camera footage, Anabtawi can be seen brandishing what looks like a knife and chasing the police officer. The two scuffle as they run down the street, before the officer pulls out his gun and appears to shoot Anabtawi.

“We saw videos of the incident, and after family members saw the deceased’s body at Rambam Hospital it is clear that the cops acted unprofessionally, using live fire several times, killing him,” the family said in a statement carried by the Musawa Center rights group.

“Trained police officers are supposed to neutralize a suspect who is mentally ill without killing him,” the statement added. “In the incomplete video sent out by the police, which doesn’t represent the whole incident, the other officers aren’t seen and it is impossible to determine at what stage they began shooting at the deceased.”

The family called for a “comprehensive and professional investigation,” saying such incidents typically repeat themselves when the suspects are Arab.

Ayman Odeh, leader of the predominantly Arab Joint List party said, “The killing of 33-year-old Munir Anabtawi is merely the continuation of the aggressive treatment practiced by the police toward Arab citizens.

“The police see Arab citizens as enemies, not equal citizens,” he added in a statement.

According to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit, 28 Arabs have been killed violently inside Israel since the beginning of 2021. Six were killed by police, while 22 were killed as a result of criminal activity.

Illustrative. A man is shot by a police officer in an apparent attempted stabbing incident in the central city of Rosh Haayin, April 30, 2020. (Screen capture: Twitter/File)

Last year, a similar incident was reported, whereby police shot and killed a 30-year-old mentally ill man named Shirel Habura. The police said Habura attempted to stab a police officer.

Police also shot dead Iyad Halak, an autistic Arab man, last year in the Old City of Jerusalem, affirming that they had mistaken him for a terrorist.

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