An 18-year-old woman was shot dead in northern Israel on Friday, becoming the 99th member of the Arab community killed this year in a crime wave that has spiraled out of control since the establishment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government five months ago.
The killing comes less than 24 hours after a deadly mass shooting in the northern Arab town of Yafa an-Naseriyye that killed five people, one of the worst single acts of violence in recent years.
Police said their initial investigation found that the woman — later identified as Sarit Ahmad — was shot in her upper body while sitting in her car just outside her hometown, the majority-Druze locality Kisra-Sumei in the western Galilee region, by a suspect who managed to flee the scene.
Officers have since opened an investigation and began collecting evidence but indictments of murder cases in the Arab community are exceedingly rare.
Medics were dispatched to the scene and worked to resuscitate Ahmad while rushing her to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, but doctors were forced to declare her death shortly after she arrived.
According to Hebrew media reports, Ahmad had been threatened in the past over her sexual orientation, and in 2021, two of her brothers were arrested and briefly jailed after she filed a police complaint against them.
Ahmad was forced to flee to a women’s shelter, but last month filed another police complaint after receiving additional threats from her brother.
In a statement, the Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel – Aguda, expressed sorrow over the young woman’s death — during Pride Month — and called for action to protect those threatened due to their sexual orientation.
“It is difficult to describe the pain of a young woman’s murder after she received, according to reports, threats based on her sexual orientation. It is a sad day for the LGBTQ community and the entire Israeli public when such a terrible murder takes place,” the organization said.
“The tragic loss must galvanize the welfare and enforcement systems in Israel to provide LGBTQ people in Arab society with full personal security,” the statement read.
“When it comes to a girl who has been threatened in the past because of her sexual orientation, we demand that the police thoroughly investigate the circumstances of the incident,” the statement read.
Women’s rights organization Na’amat chair Hagit Pe’er blasted National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir in a statement, saying his solution to the crime wave has been to “flood the streets with tens of thousands of more weapons.”
“If anyone has the illusion that this violence will remain in one community or another, they are wrong. It is a contagious epidemic, and it affects us all. It is not clear what motivates [Ben Gvir], but it clearly isn’t our safety.”
According to the Abraham Initiatives, an anti-violence monitoring group, at least 99 Arabs have been killed in violent circumstances since the start of the year, a major leap from the 35 slayings at this point in 2022. Netanyahu’s government was sworn in on December 29, 2022.
Earlier Friday, police said they had arrested 11 suspects in connection with the shooting in Yafa an-Naseriyye.
Later Thursday a man aged about 30 was shot dead in a drive-by shooting near the central city of Kafr Qasim, while another man was moderately injured. The shooting caused the car to crash, also injuring a 46-year-old woman.
Along with the two deadly incidents, a 3-year-old girl and her father were seriously hurt after being struck by gunfire in Kafr Kanna, which like Yafa an-Naseriyye is near Nazareth.
In light of the events, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an umbrella group representing the community, announced a general strike Friday in the Arab community. The committee also called for protests to be held over the weekend.
On Monday, MKs from the Arab-majority Hadash-Ta’al party met with Netanyahu to discuss the problem and demand urgent action to combat the crime wave. The sides agreed with Netanyahu on forming a committee for fighting violence in the Arab community that the prime minister himself will head, Netanyahu’s office said.
Police, politicians and community leaders have struggled over the past several years to rein in criminal activity driving the spiking violence, which has appeared to ramp up in recent months.
Many community leaders blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes loan sharking, family feuds, mafia turf wars, protection rackets and violence against women. The communities have also suffered from years of neglect by state authorities.