Two people were killed and another two injured by gunfire in separate shootings late Thursday and early Friday as a deadly crime wave continued to plague Israel’s Arab community.
Yousef Takruri, 41, and Khaled Alkoubi Salame, 37, were killed in a hail of gunfire while driving on Route 57 in the Sharon region north of Tel Aviv at around 11 p.m. Thursday, authorities said.
The Qalansawe residents were both dead by the time paramedics arrived at the scene of the shooting at Nitzanei Oz junction east of Netanya, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.
Police said the killings were being investigated as a criminal matter.
Media reports indicated that the shooters escaped the scene. No arrests were announced.
Hours later, two people were shot in the Galilee town of Jdeidah Makr. According to Channel 12 news, a 21-year-old man suffered serious injuries and was hospitalized in stable condition. A second person, 19, suffered wounds and was listed in moderate condition.
The deadly rash of violence came two days after police unveiled a new undercover unit tasked with addressing violent crime in the Arab Israeli community. The Sinai Unit will consist of 45 undercover officers, who will target hotspots and organized crime in Arab communities throughout the country.
Arab cities and towns have seen a surge in violence in recent years, with organized crime seen as the main driver.
The two killings bring the number of murders in the Arab community to at least 82 this year, putting it on pace to far outstrip last year’s 96 violent killings in the community, the highest number in recent memory.
On Tuesday, 57-year-old Muhammed Faiz Dhiab was shot dead by unknown gunmen in his home in the northern city of Haifa. Last month Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton’s adviser on Arab affairs, Sahar Ismail, was shot dead just outside his home in the town of Rameh.
Police have arrested a suspect, according to Hebrew reports Thursday, but no other details were available.
In a speech Thursday, President Isaac Herzog railed against underworld violence and called for immediate action.
“This terrorism is a threat to all of us” he said. “This is a national emergency. We cannot continue living like this.”
Arab Israelis blame the police for failing to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignoring the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.
According to a 2020 Knesset report, some 400,000 illegal weapons are circulating within Israel, the vast majority in Arab communities.
On Sunday, Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai called an emergency meeting on the issue after four Arab Israelis were killed in apparent homicides over the weekend.
Last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that violence and crime in Arab Israeli communities was a “national calamity,” as he met with senior government and police officials to formulate a national plan to tackle the issue.
Shabtai had pushed to enlist the Shin Bet security agency in an effort to combat crime in Arab Israeli communities but received pushback from the attorney general as well as the Shin Bet itself, which argued that such a task is not within its mandate.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.