Bedouin man, 21, killed in south; 100th victim of violence in Arab community in 2023

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A 21-year-old man from the Bedouin community in southern Israel was stabbed to death early Saturday, becoming the 100th member of the Arab community to have been killed so far this year in a spiraling crime wave that has claimed the lives of eight people just over the past two days.

According to initial reports, the youth, a resident of a Bedouin community in the Negev desert, was fatally stabbed during a scuffle with foreign workers near the southern city of Ofakim. Medics called to an unpopulated area near the city in the very early hours of Saturday morning found the victim with no signs of life, and with significant injuries, and were forced to pronounce his death.

Police arrested two suspects and are investigating the killing, according to reports on the Hebrew-language media. Ynet reported that police were looking into the possibility that the incident was a botched robbery.

The death comes hours after an 18-year-old woman was shot dead in northern Israel on Friday, and less than two days 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.

Thousands of Arab Israelis protested on Friday against the killings, and called for action by authorities.

On Friday, police said their initial investigation into the killing of the teenager — later identified as Sarit Ahmad — found that she was shot in her upper body while sitting in her car just outside her hometown of Kisra-Sumei in the western Galilee region by a suspect who managed to flee the scene.

A police car at the scene of a fatal stabbing on June 10, 2023 near the southern city of Ofakim where a 21-year-old Bedouin man was found dead of his wounds in a scuffle with foreign workers, according to an initial investigation. (Israel Police)

According to Hebrew media reports, Ahmad had been threatened in the past over her sexual orientation, and in 2021, her brother was arrested and briefly jailed after she filed a police complaint against him. Ahmad was forced to flee to a women’s shelter, but last month filed another police complaint after receiving additional threats from her brother.

According to the Abraham Initiatives, an anti-violence monitoring group, at least 100 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.

Critics and protesters have pointed the finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose government was sworn in on December 29, 2022, as well as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, on whom half a dozen former police chiefs called to step aside on Friday as the rampant bloodshed continues.

Earlier this week, Netanyahu announced a decision to form a steering committee following a meeting with Arab lawmakers to discuss “solutions to the wave of murders in the Arab society.”

Sarit Ahmad, 18, who was killed in a shooting in northern Israel on June 9, 2023 (Social media: (Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

They demanded urgent action to combat the crime wave.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said he was “determined to stop this chain of murders” and would see that happen by not only reinforcing police but also “with the help of the Shin Bet.”

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 Arab community leaders blame authorities and the police for the crime wave, 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 communities have also suffered from years of neglect by state authorities.

Experts say powerful Arab gangs have amassed large quantities of illegal weapons over the past two decades and are involved in drugs, arms and human trafficking, prostitution, extortion and money laundering.

Demonstrators take part in a protest against the killing of five Arab Israelis in the village of Yafa, west of Nazareth, on June 9, 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

On Friday, police said they had arrested 11 suspects in connection with the shooting in Yafa an-Naseriyye.

Also 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 three-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.

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