Two suspects arrested in fatal shooting of 4-year-old boy on playground

Four other detainees released. Police say Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat likely killed by stray gunfire from nearby construction site

Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat (Courtesy)
Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat (Courtesy)

Two people were arrested Thursday in connection with the fatal shooting of a 4-year-old boy in the northern village of Bir al-Maksur earlier in the day, police said.

The two suspects, aged 34 and 35, were among six people detained in connection with the killing of Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat, apparently from stray gunfire. The other four were described by police as suspects but subsequently released.

“This is a shocking incident of a toddler hit by gunfire from criminals using firearms with such ease, without any respect for human life, causing such a terrible tragedy,” police said in a statement hours after the killing.

“We will do everything to reach the gunmen,” the statement added.

Hujayrat was at a playground when he was shot. Police said it was believed he was hit by stray gunfire from a construction site some 300 meters (984 feet) away.

An unnamed eyewitness told Channel 12 that the boy was shot in front of his mother.

The playground where 4-year-old Ammar Muhammad Hujayrat was shot dead by stray gunfire in Bir al-Maksur, northern Israel, on January 6, 2022. (Flash90)

Speaking to reporters with tears in his eyes hours after his son’s death, Muhammad Hujayrat said, “May all Muslims come together because of the death of Ammar, may god bless him.

“Stay away from violence because it is not the answer. The only answer is for us to return to the path of God,” he added.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, who is responsible for Israeli police forces, said earlier Thursday it was “heartbreaking” to hear of Hujayrat’s death and vowed that law enforcement authorities “won’t rest until the gunmen are brought to justice.”

“We will fight the crime and violence that are mercilessly harming the Arab public,” he tweeted.

Medics initially said Hujayrat was unconscious and he was treated for injuries to his upper body. He was taken to the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa for treatment and a medical team declared his death due to injuries to his head and neck.

Arab communities have seen a surge in violence in recent years, driven mainly, but not exclusively, by organized crime.

Hujayrat’s killing marked the first fatality from Arab community violence in 2022, after a particularly bloody 2021.

Arab Israelis blame police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.

The Arab community has also suffered from decades of neglect.

The Abraham Initiatives, which monitors and campaigns against violence in the Arab community, said there were 125 Arabs killed in Israel in 2021 as a result of violence and crime, of whom 62 were below the age of 30.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Barlev have vowed to crack down on the violence as well as illegal weapons.

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