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Thousands at funeral of Arab child shot dead in north, president expresses ‘horror’

4 suspects remanded in custody over stray gunfire that killed 4-year-old Ammar Hujayrat on playground in Bir al-Maksur

Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat (Courtesy)
Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat (Courtesy)

Thousands of people on Friday took part in the funeral of a four-year-old boy who was shot dead during a gunfight in a northern village the previous day.

Earlier President Isaac Herzog spoke with Muhammad Hujayrat, the father of Ammar Hujayrat, expressed his “deep horror” at the child’s killing and offered the family his condolences.

Friday also saw the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court extend the remand of four suspects in the shooting in Bir al-Maksur. All deny involvement.

Hujayrat is believed to have been killed by stray gunfire during a shootout between criminals. He was shot while at a playground with his aunt, the family said.

“This is a shocking incident of a toddler hit by gunfire from criminals using firearms with such ease, without any respect for human life, causing such a terrible tragedy,” police said in a statement hours after the killing. “We will do everything to catch the gunmen.”

Police said it was believed Hujayrat was hit by stray gunfire from a construction site some 300 meters (984 feet) away.

The playground where 4-year-old Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat was shot dead by stray gunfire in Bir al-Maksur, northern Israel, on January 6, 2022. (Flash90)

Speaking to reporters with tears in his eyes hours after his son’s death, Muhammad Hujayrat said, “May all Muslims come together because of the death of Ammar, may God bless him.”

“Stay away from violence because it is not the answer. The only answer is for us to return to the path of God,” he added.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who is responsible for Israeli police forces, said Thursday it was “heartbreaking” to hear of Hujayrat’s death and vowed that law enforcement authorities “won’t rest until the gunmen are brought to justice.”

“We will fight the crime and violence that are mercilessly harming the Arab public,” he tweeted.

Arab communities have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly, but not exclusively, by organized crime. Hujayrat’s killing marked the first fatality from Arab community violence in 2022, after a particularly bloody 2021. A second Arab man was shot dead later in the day, in the town of Lod.

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.

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

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