Eyewitnesses and municipal officials in Beit Shemesh say the police presence in the city is inadequate, and that it took an excessively long time for officers to reach the scene of a stabbing attack outside a synagogue in the city early Thursday morning.
Mayor Moshe Abutbul said he has broached the subject of the number of officers in Beit Shemesh on multiple occasions with Israel Police, in light of the large number of Palestinian construction workers in the city.
“We have raised the problem many times in emergency meetings with the police, but we found out there is no legal way to suspend work on construction sites. The problem of construction workers at dozens of sites in Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel does not give us a moment’s rest,” Abutbul told Hebrew-language website NRG after the attack.
Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel, where the attack took place is a fast-growing ultra-Orthodox neighborhood where a vast number of housing projects are still under construction. The building designated as the sole police station in the neighborhood does not even have electricity or water yet, the mayor said.
Abutbul said the municipality would increase security patrols in the area and called on residents “to remain on high alert.”
Eyewitnesses said police took a long time to reach the scene of the terror attack even though residents phoned the hotline as soon as they saw “suspicious-looking persons” in the street.
Yinon Chen, an eyewitness to the events, told Channel 2 that he ended up following the two men, “with the police on the phone.”
According to NRG, local resident Raphael Chester sent Abutbul a letter 10 days ago, in which he complained about the poor security in the neighborhood.
“In some educational facilities in the city or near them, construction work including renovations, paving sidewalks and other work is conducted [by Arabs],” he wrote, “and this necessitates different security arrangements than the ones currently in place.”
Abutbul said a building for the local police station has already been allocated and expressed the hope that “connecting it to the water and electricity grids will be completed as soon as today.”