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Criminal violence flares up in Palestinian towns in Israel amid dearth of policing

May 2, 2016 7:17 P.M. (Updated: May 3, 2016 9:59 A.M.)
Image of weapons reportedly seized by Israeli forces during overnight raids in Nablus, released by the Israeli army on Nov. 17, 2015.
GALILEE (Ma’an) -- A wave of criminal violence spread across Palestinian towns in Israel Sunday night, following unanswered demands by Palestinian leadership in Israel’s Knesset to crack down on illegal weapons in Palestinian communities in Israel.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement that unknown assailants opened fire at the house of a 50-year-old Palestinian in the Bedouin village of Tuba-Zangariyye in northern Israel.

No casualties were reported. Israeli police opened an investigation shortly after the incident, al-Samri said.

In separate incident, unknown assailants opened fire from a moving car at a restaurant in the Palestinian town of Tayibeh in central Israel, damaging the building. No fatalities were reported.

Eyewitnesses told Ma’an that at least two armed men drove by the restaurant and opened fire at the restaurant’s gate while it was closed.

Israeli police opened an investigation, but circumstances of the shooting are still unknown.

More than ten shooting incidents have reportedly occurred in Tayibeh over recent months, leaving 15 injured and damaging many civilian homes and vehicles. Palestinian citizen of Israel Abd al-Nasser Jebara was killed in a shooting incident inside his house in Tayibeh on April 4.

The most recent incidents of gun violence come as Join List members in Israel’s Knesset have called on authorities to crack down on illegal weapons in Israel’s Palestinian communities, where there is a disproportionate lack of policing compared to Jewish-majority neighborhoods.

MK Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List warned against a rise in policing of Palestinian communities in the form of punitive action such as housing demolitions, rather than protecting Palestinian citizens of Israel from criminal violence.

“This is an issue that desperately requires reform rather than punishment,” Jabareen told Ma’an in April.

“It is important that the police adopt a new policy and attitude towards the Arab community. [...] Without this, the mere establishment of additional police stations and an increase in policing may result in increased tension and confrontation between our community and the police, rather than effective policing of crime and violence.”

In a Knesset meeting in January, Joint List member MK Osama Saadi called illegal firearms “a cancer in the body of Arab society.”

“We constantly warned about this, but there is an outcry only when the weapons are directed -- once -- at Tel Aviv.”

The meeting was held in response to a shooting carried out by a Palestinian citizen of Israel in Tel Aviv on Jan. 1 that killed two Israelis and injured seven. After a days-long manhunt across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, the suspect was shot dead by Israeli forces.

The aftermath of the attack saw Israeli forces crack down on Palestinian citizens of Israel during the search for the suspect, as rights groups told Ma’an the forces enforced discriminatory treatment in Palestinian communities.

During the Knesset meeting while the suspect was still at large, Joint List MK Talab Abu Arar addressed Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan saying, “Arab homes are filled with weapons. Please start collecting them, and not only through improper means.”

Erdan revealed during the discussion that 90 percent of illegal firearms in north Israel are obtained from the army.

MK Basel Ghattas, also of the Joint List, echoed the issue of mutual mistrust between Israeli police and Palestinian-majority towns in the face of rising violence: “Police view the Arab as an enemy, and we view the police as a hostile entity, and this affects everything. How is it that suddenly police stations are popping up in the villages and the amount of weapons is increasing?”
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