YAFA AN-NASERIYYE, Israel — Thousands of Arab Israelis protested Friday in the country’s north following the funerals of five people killed on Thursday in one of the deadliest single acts of violence in recent years, amid the worst crime waves to hit the minority over the past decade.
The five Arab Israelis, including a 15-year-old, were shot dead on Thursday morning at a carwash in Yafa an-Naseriyye, an Arab town near the city of Nazareth, police said.
Since the start of the year, close to 100 people have been killed in crime-related violence in Arab Israeli communities, according to NGOs.
At the protest near the city of Nazareth, demonstrators raised banners reading “it is my right to live in safety” and “Yafa has lots her sons.”
Mourners attended the burial of two of the five victims at the Catholic Church in Yafa on Friday.
The other three are to be buried according to Muslim traditions.
The High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel umbrella group also called for a general strike Friday and into the weekend to protest the killings.
The group also voiced support for the call within the government to involve the Shin Bet security agency in the fight against violent organized crime in the Arab Israeli community, which has claimed 99 lives so far this year.
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 tools it uses in the fight against Palestinian terror on civilians and that it could be harmful to do so.
The latest killing took place earlier Friday when an 18-year-old woman was shot dead in northern Israel.
Many Arab community leaders blame 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.
On May 30, elected officials and representatives of the Arab minority protested in Jerusalem and called on the government to increase security.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin 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”.
On Thursday, he 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.”
Also Thursday, the leader of the predominantly Arab Hadash-Ta’al opposition party launched an attack on the government, saying the blood spilled in Thursday’s “shocking massacre” was on the hands of Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right lawmaker from the Otzma Yehudit party.
In a statement, MK Ayman Odeh said Arab community leaders “have for years been calling for getting the weapons off the streets and for cracking down on crime organizations.”
“We won’t accept this negligence. We will cause the whole country to strike until this stops,” Odeh said.
He urged the government to “immediately fire” Ben Gvir, echoing calls from other government critics. On Friday, former police chiefs also called to remove Ben Gvir as national security minister, warning he was a “tangible, immediate threat to the security of the State of Israel.”