Senior police officers reportedly knew about security camera footage showing a high-ranking officer leaving the scene of a deadly stabbing that happened just meters from him, and stumbling over the victim as he exited the building, yet no action was taken regarding the incident until it was reported in the media on Monday.
Reports said Monday evening that the 2020 incident had reached the office of the previous acting chief of police, with the Kan public broadcaster saying the commissioner himself had seen the video of Israel’s top Arab cop Jamal Hakrush — a deputy commissioner in the force and currently the head of the unit for fighting crime in the Arab Israeli community.
Current Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has ordered an independent probe of the matter and Hakrush was put on leave, in the wake of initial media reports about the video. After the follow-up claims that senior police leaders were aware of the video, but did not act, Public Security Minister Omer Barlev instructed Shabtai to ensure that the probe look into those allegations as well.
A statement from Barlev’s office said he had told Shabtai to clarify who knew what and when, how high up the command structure the incident was known, and if any measures were taken.
Channel 13 news reported that among those who knew about Hakrush’s actions were staff in the office of former acting police chief Motti Cohen, as well as those in the police spokesperson’s office.
The Kan public broadcaster cited sources saying that both Cohen and Northern District Commander Shimon Lavi had viewed the security camera footage.
The video, first reported on Monday by Haaretz, came from an incident that happened while the 65-year-old Hakrush went to the Kanna Iron plant in his hometown of Kafr Kanna on September 12, 2020, a Saturday, and his day off-duty. He went to the plant to pay for an order he had made.
While he was in an office on the top floor, two men were arguing nearby — Ghazi Amara, the CEO of the plant, and his uncle Fadi Amara, according to the Haaretz report. Fadi’s attorney was also in the room with them.
The fight between the uncle and the nephew — revolving around a land acquisition dispute — quickly devolved into a physical altercation. During the exchange, Fadi reportedly head-butted his nephew, who bit him on the nose in retaliation.
In an attempt to calm tensions, Fadi was taken to an adjacent kitchen, where he grabbed a knife and stabbed Ghazi in the chest. The injured nephew, yelling and clutching his chest, hobbled to the staircase, where he stumbled and collapsed. Fadi locked himself into a nearby room.
Security camera footage obtained by Haaretz showed Hakrush rushing out of the building despite the stabbing, stumbling over Ghazi, and ignoring the assailant barricaded in the next room.
Magen David Adom paramedics attempted to resuscitate Ghazi, but in vain. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital.
Police officers arrived shortly afterward, broke Fadi out of the room, and took him into custody.
In a round of media interviews on Monday, Hakrush insisted that he had acted in a professional manner and claimed the brief video clip did not properly depict the purpose of his behavior.
He told the Kan public broadcaster 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 were to ensure that the criminal behavior did not continue and to detain the suspect while summoning backup.
He added that he trusts authorities to clarify the matter and that he intends to continue serving in the police.
In the wake of the Haaretz report, Shabtai said that there would be a probe into the incident and that Hakrush would be taking a leave of absence. Minister Barlev had ordered Shabtai to get clarifications from Hakrush regarding the event.
Senior police officials were quoted as saying they were shocked by the report, with some even insisting that Hakrush could not continue to serve in the police in light of it. “It is expected of such a senior officer to at least provide assistance to the wounded — this is not behavior that is expected of a police officer,” one senior officer told Haaretz.
The allegations that senior officers took no action in the past over the video came amid public outrage over separate claims that the Israel Police used powerful spyware for years to glean information from the cell phones of civilians — including non-suspects — without proper oversight. Barlev has denied that law enforcement broke any laws, and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has ordered a probe of the matter.