Police claim to foil gangland hit at Nazareth hospital, arrest 3 suspects

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Police said they thwarted an attempted underworld murder on the grounds of a hospital in the northern city of Nazareth on Sunday, as law enforcers continued to grapple with a spiraling wave of violent crime.

Police and Border Police officers surrounded a car parked at the Holy Family Hospital and ordered three masked suspects to exit their vehicle at gun point before arresting them, bodycam footage showed.

Two loaded handguns were confiscated from the suspects.

Investigators said that the vehicle used by the suspected hit squad was stolen, and that its license plates belonged to another vehicle. Inside the car, police found a screwdriver, apparently used for changing the plate, and a tank of fuel, which officers said the suspects likely intended to use to burn the vehicle after the planned hit.

Police said they came to the scene after receiving a report of the suspicious vehicle parked at the hospital.

Police added in a statement that they arrested 22 suspects over the weekend in connection with violent incidents that were part of a dispute between the Bakri and Hariri crime families.

Two loaded handguns and other items confiscated from a suspected hit squad in the parking lot of the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth, June 11, 2023. (Israel Police)

“We see once again that the war among criminal organizations has no boundaries,” said Northern District Commander Shuki Tahauko. “Were it not for the brave actions of the police officers, we could have found ourselves in a very different outcome for this incident, including loss of life and even harm to uninvolved innocents inside the hospital.”

A massive wave of deadly violence has claimed the lives of 102 Arabs in Israel this year, far more than the 35 slayings at the same point in 2022.

The surge in mob violence in recent months has seen dozens of shootings and bombings attributed to battling crime families.

Also on Sunday, a man was seriously injured when a motorcycle exploded on a street in Ramat Gan.

The explosion was thought to be either an organized crime bombing or a so-called “work accident,” in which the wounded individual was transporting the device.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated his call to involve the Shin Bet domestic security agency in addressing the deadly crime spike in Arab communities, after a spike in killings over the weekend.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on June 11, 2023. (Menahem Kahana/Pool/AFP)

Netanyahu said last week he wanted to have the security service aid the police in the crime fight, shortly after five people were gunned down at a carwash in the north of the country in the deadliest non-terror mass killing since 2009.

The Shin Bet is generally tasked only with fighting nationalistically motivated terror threats and many Arab leaders oppose the agency’s involvement in non-terror-related matters.

Senior officials in the Shin Bet are reportedly also strongly opposed to the agency’s involvement in the fight against criminal organizations, worrying that it might not even be legal to employ the same tools it uses to combat Palestinian terror against citizens .

Amid the soaring crimewave, there have been growing calls for the removal of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who is in charge of the police.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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