Two boys who were gunned down in the town of Jaljulia in central Israel on Tuesday were sitting only 100 meters from a police station at the time of the attack, according to a Wednesday report.
The shooting killed 14-year-old Muhammad Abdelrazek Ades and seriously wounded 12-year-old Mustafa Osama Hamed.
The attack drew renewed outcry over violence in Israel’s Arab community as Ades became the 23rd Arab Israeli to die in violent circumstances this year, and the third under the age of 20. Law enforcement has been accused of neglecting violent crime in Arab communities, a charge highlighted by the shooting’s proximity to a police station.
According to the Kan public broadcaster, the two youths were sitting outside their homes when they were fired upon. The report said the family of at least one of the boys is apparently involved in a criminal underground dispute, but it remains unclear if the pair were the target.
Police said they were investigating the matter.
The Ynet news site said the scene of the shooting was around 100 meters from Jaljulia’s police station.
Channel 12 reported that the boys had been brought to the police station after the shooting by unknown individuals who then fled the scene. Passersby saw the bodies at the entrance to the police station and called emergency services, the report said.
After the shooting, Ades was brought to Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba with no vital signs. Hamed was rushed to the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, underwent surgery and remained in serious condition.
A village leader told Ynet, “If they’re murdering people next to a police station, it means that criminals don’t pay any mind to police or to the government. It seems that a police station, as they say, is just for drinking coffee.”
Darwish Rabi, the head of Jaljulia’s city council, said after the shooting, “What’s going on today in the Arab community has crossed all red lines, there are none left. This is a civil war. We are sure that there is no rule here, no law, no governance.”
Rabi said there will be a protest in Jaljulia on Friday. “We’re protesting against violence. We need our voice to be heard.”
The northern city of Umm al-Fahm has been holding weekly demonstrations against violence in the Arab community, with last Friday’s rally drawing around 10,000 demonstrators. Turnout was higher than usual, likely due to accusations of police brutality at the previous week’s demonstration that injured at least 35 and spurred an investigation by the Justice Ministry.
The Jaljulia Local Council announced that a general strike will be held Wednesday in the town, following the deadly shooting.
Rabi said he knew the family of the victims.
“The boy who was murdered was a gifted student, quiet. He is a victim. It could be any child, any man, any woman,” he said.
One of Ades’s teachers, Nasreen Shuahanna, said she was supposed to meet the boy for a lesson Tuesday afternoon, which he canceled.
“I loved you for your high morals and how excellent you were in science,” she said. “I taught you for three years. Today we were supposed to meet in the afternoon, but fate decided that our meeting would be canceled, for some reason, and to my sorrow I will not be able to see you again.”
“How will I return when your place will be empty? How will I send reminders about lessons when you’re not among us?” she said.
One of Ades’s family members said the boys had just left the house when the shooting happened and said they had been sprayed by around 20 bullets from close range.
Arab Israeli Knesset members also condemned the attack.
Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the predominantly Arab Joint List party, said that “there are no words to describe the magnitude of the horror and heavy loss.”
Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman expressed her anger over the shooting, similarly blaming both the criminals and the government.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Touma-Sliman said, adding that “the blood is on the criminals, but the blame is also on the government and police who have neglected our children.”
Organized crime is largely seen as the engine of the spread of violence in Arab cities and towns. Arab Israelis blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations.
Netanyahu announced last week that his government will funnel NIS 150 million ($45 million) to combating violence in Arab communities. Arab politicians and civil society organizations — who had hoped for billions more — harshly criticized the plan as too little, too late.
The number of homicides among Jewish Israelis since 2016 has remained relatively constant: 38 in 2016, 44 in 2017, 35 in 2018, and 36 in 2019, according to the Israel Police.
Among Arabs, however, it has jumped over that same period: 64 in 2016, 67 in 2017, 71 in 2018, 89 in 2019, and 96 in 2020, by far the highest annual toll in recent memory.
In a separate incident on Tuesday, a shooting incident in the Arab community was reported in the northern city of Sakhnin. A local 35-year-old man was taken to Galilee Medical Center in moderate condition, the hospital said.
On Saturday night, the director-general of the Qalansawe Municipality in central Israel was shot and seriously wounded while sitting in his car, drawing condemnation from Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who said targeting a public official “crossed a red line.”