Two men shot dead, raising 2023 toll to 102, in devastating week for Arab community

28-year-old gunned down in Qalansawe, 49-year-old killed in Jaljulia, as spiraling crime wave claims ten lives in just past three days

Watheq Qashqush, killed in the central Arab city of Qalansawe, June 10, 2023. (Courtesy)
Watheq Qashqush, killed in the central Arab city of Qalansawe, June 10, 2023. (Courtesy)

Two men were shot dead in separate violent incidents on Saturday evening in the central Arab-majority cities of Qalansawe and Jaljulia, law enforcement and medics said.

They were the 101st and 102nd members of the Arab community to have been killed so far this year, in a spiraling crime wave that has claimed the lives of ten people just over the past three days.

In the first incident, 28-year-old Watheq Qashqush was shot while on a street in his hometown of Qalansawe, police said. He was taken in critical condition to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where medical officials declared his death.

“When we arrived at the scene, we saw a man in his 20s who was unconscious, without a pulse and was not breathing, with very serious penetrating wounds to his body,” a Magen David Adom paramedic said.

In the second incident, just hours later, three people were shot in the central city of Jaljulia, according to MDA and police.

One of the victims, a 49-year-old man who was not immediately named, was taken in critical condition to the Meir Medical Center, where medical officials declared his death.

MDA and police said the other two victims of the shooting were women: One in her 40s who was listed in moderate condition, and the second in her 30s in light condition. They were both also taken to the Meir Medical Center.

Police said officers had launched searches for the attackers and were collecting evidence at both scenes.

The backgrounds of both killings were not immediately known, police said.

Police at the scene of a deadly shooting in the central Arab city of Qalansawe, June 10, 2023. (Courtesy)

The deaths came hours after a 21-year-old resident of a Bedouin community in the Negev desert was stabbed to death during a scuffle with foreign workers near the southern city of Ofakim. Police said it appeared the victim was part of a group attempting to steal agricultural equipment.

On Friday, an 18-year-old woman was shot dead in northern Israel; and on Thursday, five people were killed in the northern Arab town of Yafa an-Naseriyye, in one of the worst single acts of criminal violence in recent years.

Also Thursday, a man aged about 30 was shot dead in a drive-by shooting near the central city of Kafr Qasim, while another man was moderately injured. The shooting caused the car to crash, also injuring a 46-year-old woman.

Along with the deadly incidents, a three-year-old girl and her father were seriously hurt on Thursday after being struck by gunfire in Kafr Kanna, also near Nazareth.

Thousands of Arab Israelis protested on Friday against the killings and called for action by authorities.

Demonstrators carry a banner bearing pictures of five Arab Israelis who were shot dead a day earlier, as they protest against their killing in the village of Yafa, west of Nazareth, on June 9, 2023. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

According to the Abraham Initiatives, an anti-violence monitoring group, at least 102 Arabs have been killed in violent circumstances since the start of the year, a major leap from the 35 slayings at this point in 2022.

Critics and protesters have pointed the finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government was sworn in on December 29, 2022, as well as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, on whom half a dozen former police chiefs called to step aside on Friday as the rampant bloodshed continues.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu announced a decision to form a steering committee following a meeting with Arab lawmakers to discuss “solutions to the wave of murders in the Arab society.”

They demanded urgent action to combat the crime wave.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said he was “determined to stop this chain of murders” and would see that happen by not only reinforcing police but also “with the help of the Shin Bet.”

Police, politicians and community leaders have struggled over the past several years to rein in criminal activity driving the spiking violence, which has appeared to ramp up in recent months.

Many Arab community leaders blame authorities and the police for the crime wave, 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 communities have also suffered from years of neglect by state authorities.

The head of a police unit tasked with fighting crime in the Arab community, Deputy Commissioner Natan Bozna, resigned on Tuesday.

Experts say powerful Arab gangs have amassed large quantities of illegal weapons over the past two decades and are involved in drugs, arms and human trafficking, prostitution, extortion and money laundering.

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