Home Civilian based defense Northern police chief says region ‘at war’ with ongoing Arab community violence

Northern police chief says region ‘at war’ with ongoing Arab community violence

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The northern district commander of the Israel Police said on Thursday that the Arab community is “responsible for 99% of killings and shootings” in the north, as Arab community violence continues to spiral out of control.

Shimon Lavi, speaking at a conference on how to develop the Galilee, said northern Israel has some 1.3 million citizens, half of whom are Arabs.

“These 50% are responsible for 99% of murders, 99% of shootings, 65% of arson and 80% of robberies,” Lavi said according to the Haaretz daily. The figures could not be independently verified.

“We are not fighting crime in Arab society, we are at war and we are determined to face it,” added the head of the northern district.

Violent crimes in Israel’s Arab community have spiraled out of control in recent months, even as the government and security officials pledged to crack down on the problem. According to the organization Abraham Initiatives, 99 Israeli Arabs and Palestinians have been killed in Israel since the start of 2021.

Of the 99 incidents, 82 were gun deaths, the group said, 48 of them involved the murder of someone under the age of 30, and 86 of those killed were men.

Forensic scientists and Israeli police at the scene where three men were found dead in a forest in northern Israel in a suspected triple murder on November 1, 2020 (Basel Awidat / Flash90)

Last year 96 Arab Israelis were killed in community violence, according to the Abraham Initiatives.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, also speaking at Thursday’s conference, said the violence in Arab society “did not come out of nowhere”, but rather the result of “a long process of criminal families taking over due to Israel’s neglect of Arabs. communities and cities, ”according to Haaretz.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev visits a company victim of a protection racket, in the Upper Galilee, between Rosh Pina and Kiryat Shmona, August 11, 2021 (Basel Awidat / Flash90)

Ronen Bar, who began his tenure as head of the Shin Bet on Wednesday, pledged to use the security agency to tackle violent crime in the Arab community, though the security agency’s involvement in civil affairs remains controversial.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about the growing violence in general and in Arab society in particular,” Bar said during a handover ceremony. “The agency will not stand idly by,” he said, promising to study the issue and come up with a plan that would strike the right balance in terms of agency involvement. “It is obviously a national mission.”

New Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (left) with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, October 11, 2021 (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Government officials and civil society experts say violence in the Arab community is the product of decades of state neglect.

More than half of Israeli Arabs live below the poverty line. Their towns and villages often have crumbling infrastructure, poor public services and few job prospects, leading some young people to collaborate with organized crime.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett chaired a ministerial meeting earlier this month to tackle the epidemic of violent crime in Israel’s Arab communities. The ministers decided to use the Shin Bet and the military to resolve the issue, although Barlev later ruled out the possibility of IDF involvement.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (center) visits a police station on August 11, 2021 to announce a new national plan to fight crime in the Arab sector. (Amos Ben-Gershom / GPO)

A government-established task force will focus on the issue of illegal weapons, the prime minister’s office said. The Justice Department will promote a series of laws to provide law enforcement with better tools to crack down on illegal guns, including minimum penalties for offenses.

“The situation regarding violence in the Arab sector has reached a red line,” Bennett said at the time. “The problem was sidelined and neglected for years until it reached outrageous proportions, as we have seen over the past year.”

The Prime Minister said that “the Arab community must understand that the security forces are not the enemy, they are the solution”. He added: “Dealing with this magnitude won’t take a day or two, but we are there. We are taking action and will continue to do so. “

Amy Spiro and The Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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