Relatives of Abed Azbarga remained on vigil at the trauma ward of Assaf Harofeh
Medical Center on Tuesday, where the 44-year-old Lod city council candidate
remained in serious condition the morning after he was shot by a masked gunman
in the crime-plagued city.
In the hallway outside the operating room,
Abed’s brother Juma put his cellphone on speakerphone as a Jewish man named
Yigal called and began sobbing on the line.
“Don’t cry, Yigal, don’t
He’ll be okay. I’ll keep you posted,” Juma said, and hung up the
Juma denied that his brother could have been shot as part of a
previous criminal feud, saying that he was a well-known attorney and head of
Lod’s mixed Jewish and Arab parents committee and was known as a stand-up
While police said the motive behind the shooting remains
unclear, relatives of Azbarga said Tuesday it was most certainly driven by
politics, with Juma pointing an accusatory finger at mayoral candidate Yoram
“He was inciting people against Abed, because he was afraid
that he would tell all the Arabs not to vote for him,” said Juma, Abed’s older
brother, who added that “I wouldn’t even rule out that he sent the people who
Marciano, a former Labor Party MK, has denied that he had
anything to do with the shooting and wished Azbarga a speedy recovery.
a polling station in the city on Tuesday, Marciano made the rounds, telling all
who would listen that he was being libeled and was a victim of character
assassination from all sides in the mayoral race.
“On the one hand there
are those saying I’m against the Arabs, and on the other there are people trying
to incite the religious public against me by saying that I’m only for the
Arabs,” Marciano said, and then bent over to receive a blessing from an elderly
female supporter, as tears began to stream down his face.
municipality elections in Lod are the first in a decade for a city that has long
suffered from a high murder rate and an image as the drug capital of Israel. Due
to crippling corruption and debt, over the past decade the city has been run by
an emergency committee put in place by the national government.
of murders of local women in 2010 led Public Security Minister Yitzhak
Aharonovitch to deploy Border Patrol officers to the city, and at the height of
the crime spree, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the city to pledge
his support for an end to the violence.
At the height of the violence,
Azbarga, then the head of the parents committee, was among those who organized a
general strike in the city’s schools to protest the worsening threat to public
safety for the children of Lod.
The city is also known for having one of
the most varied ethnic makeups in Israel. A third of its 74,000 citizens are
Arab, including some who have lived in the city for many generations, as well as
Beduin families that arrived later and a significant number of “collaborators”
moved into Israel in recent years from the Palestinian territories. The Jewish
population is also quite varied, including a large number of immigrants from
Russia, Georgia, Central Asia and Ethiopian.
The first arrests in the
shooting of Azbarga weren’t long in coming, and by Tuesday morning Abu Ala
Katifan and Farid Taha were brought in for a remand extension at the Ramle
Attorney Ari Kadri told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that both
men have solid alibis and that Katifan was caught on camera at a local
restaurant meeting with Juma Azbarga not long before the murder and that Taha
was videotaped on the cameras entering his own home before the shooting and
leaving shortly after. Kadri said he is sure that after their remand extension
is over on Thursday, both will be released.
Alibis were of little
interest to Nisrin Shehada on Tuesday morning, as she finished mopping up the
blood on the tile floor of her single-level home off the corner of Harav Kook
and Borochov in central Lod.
She sat on the couch and pointed at the spot
a couple meters away where she said the masked gunman walked straight through
the open door and shot five or six bullets before fleeing.
that she and the other five people present – both men and women – all went into
shock and were unable to move or help Azbarga until bystanders came to their
She said that they called paramedics, but when they failed to arrive
the men put Azbarga in the back of a car and sped off toward Assaf
Shehada said she was treated for shock at the hospital, and
though she was released a few hours later, on Tuesday morning she still appeared
shaken up, distant, and weary.
When asked about claims that Lod has
managed to have success in recent years, she laughed, saying “totally,” before
adding, “If I could, I’d leave this city. If I had the money to leave, I would
have left years ago.”
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