Woman, 18, shot dead in north; 99th victim of violence in Arab community this year

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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 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.

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 the woman while rushing her to the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, but doctors were forced to declare her death shortly after she arrived.

The woman’s identity was not immediately released.

According to Hebrew media reports, the victim 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.

The victim was forced to flee to a women’s shelter, but last month filed another police complaint after receiving additional threats from her brother.

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.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene where five people were shot dead in the town of Yafa an-Naseriyye, June 8, 2023. (Fadi Amun/Flash90)

“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.

Police at the scene where five people were shot dead in the town of Yafa an-Naseriyye, June 8, 2023. (Fadi Amun/Flash90)

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.

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