Border Police forces deployed in Rahat as shootings amass

Three shooting incidents reported in Rahat on Sunday • Bar Lev says Israeli forces will be deployed in Rahat

 Bedouin men outside the scene where an armed suspect was killed after firing at police special forces who were operating in Rahat, southern Israel, March 15, 2022 (photo credit: FLASH90)
Bedouin men outside the scene where an armed suspect was killed after firing at police special forces who were operating in Rahat, southern Israel, March 15, 2022
(photo credit: FLASH90)

Another shooting incident was reported in the southern city of Rahat on Sunday afternoon, hours after Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Kobi Shabtai announced some 100 Border Police officers would be deployed in the Bedouin-dominated city.

Unknown assailants shot at houses in a residential area of Rahat in the third shooting on Sunday.

Violence in Rahat has escalated over the past month due to a feud between two Rahat families. As part of that feud, a 14-year-old girl was moderately wounded on Sunday before shooters targeted two businesses later in the day. The latest shooting was believed to be connected to the families, according to police.

Following a situational assessment with police officers from the southern district, Shabtai warned those in the Arab sector who carry illegal weapons that they have “blood on their hands.”

In addition, a Border Police command headed by Asst.-Ch. Amir Cohen will be established in Rahat, Shabtai said.

 Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai in the crime-ridden city of Rahat in April 24, 2022 (credit: ISRAEL POLICE) Israel Police chief Kobi Shabtai in the crime-ridden city of Rahat in April 24, 2022 (credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

Shabtai’s comments came after Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev (Labor) vowed to deploy security forces in Rahat during talks with Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu Sahiban earlier on Sunday.

“We are determined to take action against violence and crime in Rahat,” Bar Lev tweeted on Sunday. “Police forces are working with all the tools they have available to get their hands on the criminals. Rahat residents deserve to feel secure in their city.”

Shabtai, who also met with Abu Sahiban, accused the Rahat Municipality of sending violent educational and cultural messages to young people by naming a city square after the perpetrator of a shooting attack against Israeli police officers.

Offering to rename it “Policeman Square,” Shabtai said a lack of police presence in the city was not to blame for the crime and violence.

In another incident earlier in April, five Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack that targeted a restaurant in Rahat. In March, an armed suspect was killed after firing at police special forces who were operating in Rahat. An 18-year-old Israeli citizen was arrested by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) in Rahat after he allegedly contacted ISIS in an effort to join the terrorist organization.

Arab MKs, including Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, were critical of the Israel Police’s late response to crime in Rahat and the Arab sector in general.

“Wars are being fought on the streets of Rahat with residents shot at for 10 consecutive hours,” Tibi said. “Where are the police?”

Crimes in Rahat are a direct result of “a lack of governance and total anarchy,” Ra’am (United Arab List) MK Waleed Taha said. Israel should step up the operation to remove all illegal weaponry from Arab streets, he added. Later on Sunday night, a 22-year-old resident of the city was seriously injured in a stabbing incident.

During the latest round of riots and violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was “stepping up its operations to seize illegal firearms” in the Arab sector.

“The illegal weapons market, valued at hundreds of thousands [of shekels], has grown over many years,” he said. “Now is the time to eradicate it.”

“Most Arab-Israeli citizens are imploring us to take the weapons off their streets and to continue our operation against crime [in the sector],” he added.

The Israel Police reported it had seized some 500 weapons since the beginning of the year in the northern region, including 100 rifles, 177 pistols, 186 hand grenades, 22 explosives and 13 C-4 demolition blocks.