Senior police officials urge top cop seen fleeing stabbing scene to resign

Jamal Hakrush, head of unit that battles Arab Israeli crime — currently on leave — told to give up position before probe findings

Israel Police commander Jamal Hakrush attends a Knesset event on February 5, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Israel Police commander Jamal Hakrush attends a Knesset event on February 5, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Senior officials in the Israel Police have reportedly called on the country’s top Arab police officer to resign amid an ongoing investigation into an incident where he was seen allegedly fleeing the scene of a deadly stabbing two years ago.

According to an unsourced Channel 13 TV report Friday, officials in the police force have urged Jamal Hakrush, a deputy commissioner who headed a unit tasked with fighting crime in the Arab Israeli community, to “hand in his keys” and give up his position before a committee set up to look into his actions in the affair publishes its findings.

The committee is expected to do so this coming week.

Hakrush has in the meantime been placed on leave.

Haaretz published video footage last week that showed Hakrush rushing away from the scene of a stabbing in Kafr Kanna in September 2020 and stumbling over the victim who was lying fatally wounded in a stairwell.

Hakrush, who was off-duty that day, has insisted that he acted correctly, telling the Kan public broadcaster Monday evening that he had left the building in order to “secure the location” and to preserve the crime scene as “sterile.” Hakrush said that, as a police officer, his primary concerns was to ensure that the criminal behavior did not continue and to detain the suspect while summoning backup.

But new video published by Haaretz on Tuesday purports to show Hakrush’s vehicle exiting the scene of the crime exactly one minute after he was seen leaving the building — before the attacker was arrested or the wounded man taken to the hospital, where he was declared dead.

Video footage purports to show senior police official Jamal Hakrush leaving the scene of a crime in his car while the wounded man is placed into a nearby vehicle. (Screenshot/Haaretz)

The footage from September 12, 2020 shows Hakrush’s vehicle exiting the parking lot as other people carried the wounded man, Ghazi Amara, to a car to take him to the hospital.

Haaretz also published bodycam footage captured by police officers who later arrived at the crime scene to detain the stabber, showing them reacting with confusion after being informed that Hakrush had been there but left.

Hakrush is seen returning to the scene about 10 minutes later, after police have detained Fadi Amara, Ghazi’s uncle, who had locked himself inside the kitchen following the stabbing.

Following the publication of the footage, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai ordered an independent probe of the matter.

But, according to reports, senior police officers knew about the security camera footage, yet no action was taken regarding the incident until it was reported in the media. Public Security Minister Omer Barlev instructed Shabtai to ensure that the probe looks into those allegations as well.

Senior police officials were quoted as saying that they were shocked by the report, with some even insisting that Hakrush could not continue to serve in the police in light of it.

According to the Channel 13 report, top officers have criticized Shabtai’s actions in recent weeks as the police force reels from a number of scandals including explosive reports that the police used spyware developed by Israeli cyber surveillance firm NSO to hack into the phones of activists, politicians, and others in recent years without judicial review.

One unnamed official told the TV network that there was “no deterrence in the field” as the police’s decision-making echelon was divided, distracted by a separate commission into last year’s Meron disaster, and trading blame.

The police denied claims of division in a statement to Channel 13.

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