At funeral, thousands hail Arab teen shot dead in road clash as a ‘martyr’

Suspect Dennis Mokin, 32, appears in court as relatives of Diar Umari shout ‘murderer’; victim’s father and Arab MKs blame Minister Ben Gvir for encouraging civilians to carry guns

Mourners attend the funeral for Diar Umari, 19, on May 7, 2023. Umari, from the northern Arab village of Sandala, was shot dead in a road clash a day prior. (Twitter/Kan, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Mourners attend the funeral for Diar Umari, 19, on May 7, 2023. Umari, from the northern Arab village of Sandala, was shot dead in a road clash a day prior. (Twitter/Kan, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Thousands of people attended the funeral on Sunday of 19-year-old Diar Umari, an Arab Israeli teen from the northern Arab village of Sandala who was shot dead on Saturday during a roadside fight with a man from neighboring Gan Ner.

Dennis Mokin, the suspect accused of shooting dead Umari, appeared in court on Sunday and his remand was extended, as concerns grew that the killing could ignite internecine tensions.

Relatives of the victim shouted at Mokin during the hearing and scuffled with security guards until court ushers and police intervened. Two men were reportedly detained for questioning.

“Barbarian! You murdered a young kid!” one of the men shouted at Mokin as he waited in the dock before the hearing. “Murderer,” shouted another person in the courtroom.

At Umari’s funeral, mourners chanted, “With spirit and blood, we will redeem you, martyr!”

Mokin, 32, gave himself up to police after the Saturday shooting, which was filmed by another driver. The suspect held a firearm license, and the gun used in the shooting was handed over to police.

The suspect was later found to have alcohol in his blood when tested by police, according to Hebrew media reports. In addition to Umari’s killing, Mokin is suspected of driving while intoxicated and driving with a suspended license.

Mokin will remain in custody for a week, the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court ruled.

Undated photo of Diar Umari. (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Umari’s family and leading Arab lawmakers blamed the killing on the hardline government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in particular, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir who has sought to increase the number of citizens licensed to carry firearms as a way of countering terrorism and deadly crime.

Umari’s father called Mokin a “terrorist” and blamed Ben Gvir for his son’s death.

Ben Gvir “asked all the Jews to go out into the streets with guns,” Ahmad Umari told the Ynet news site.

“He said to them that they have an enemy here, an Arab enemy. It seems to be that this guy was a good student of Ben Gvir and faithfully carried out his work,” the grieving father said.

Dennis Mokin, suspect who shot dead Diyar Umari during a road clash, is brought for a court hearing at the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on February 8, 2023. (Fadi Amun/Flash90)

Umari said his son had gone out for a drive in the area and the suspect cut him off, then pulled him from his vehicle.

“My son pushed him, and then when he wanted to be done with him he went back to the car to continue driving, and then [Mokin] shot in him the back and killed him,” the man said.

The shooting was filmed by another road user.

A clip shared on social media showed Umari and Mokin scuffling. Umari then returns to his own vehicle at which point Mokin shoots him from the other side of the road.

An initial investigation has reportedly found that the incident escalated following an encounter between the two on the road earlier and that they had no previous acquaintance.

In court, Mokin’s attorney Nadav Greenwald said his client acted in self-defense, had fired a warning shot in the air, and that he thought Umari had gone to his car to get something with which to return and attack him.

However, an Israel Police investigator at the hearing appeared to cast doubt on the claim that Umari was a threat to Mokin.

“From what we see in the video it is much worse than what the suspect claims,” the investigator said. “It does not look good for [Mokin].

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a Border Police ceremony in Latrun on May 2, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

Ra’am party leader MK Mansour Abbas said in a statement that the hardline coalition was to blame for the killing, which came amid spiking murders.

“We put the responsibility on the Netanyahu government and Ben Gvir, which does not deal with violence and does not deter citizens from using weapons,” Abbas said.

The sentiment was echoed by Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman, who also said that the incident amounted to terror.

“Anyone who watched the video saw an image of a young man being killed. You can say it’s not based on a nationalist context, but if people are told to walk around with their weapons and mark every young Arab as a potential danger, then that’s a nationalist context,” she tweeted.

A man is detained during an argument outside a court hearing of Dennis Mokin, who is accused of shooting dead Diar Umari during a road clash, at the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court on May 7, 2023. (Fadi Amun/Flash90)

In a statement, Greenwald rejected suggestions that his client acted for nationalist reasons.

“Any attempt to attribute a nationalist motive is invalid and has no relation to reality,” he said. “We will let the police do their job and investigate the case.”

There were clashes Saturday night outside Gan Ner when residents of Sandala arrived to protest the killing. One man was arrested, and a police officer and another man were lightly injured by stone-throwing.

The Gilboa Regional Council said in a statement that the killing is “so foreign to the Gilboa spirit, tolerance, and brotherhood that characterizes us all. We are extremely hurt and call on everyone to help calm the spirits and allow the police to continue handling the incident.”

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