Police shoot mentally ill man in Haifa after he tried to stab them

The Haifa District Court has issued a gag order on the investigation * DIP has interrogated the involved officer

Scene where Munir Anabtawi was shot dead by police in Haifa, March 30, 2021 (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Scene where Munir Anabtawi was shot dead by police in Haifa, March 30, 2021
(photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)
Police shot and killed a 33-year-old man in Haifa after he attempted to stab officers who were called to the scene by his parents after he became unruly in his home.
When police arrived at the scene, Munir Anabtau pulled out a knife and tried to stab the officers, injuring one of them slightly, according to police, although his family denied that this was the case to Israeli media.
The police fired at him and mortally wounded him. He was transferred to Rambam Medical Center where he was declared dead.
Shairin, Anabtau’s sister, told KAN news that he did not have anything in his hand and was not trying to stab police when he was shot. “We saw the knife on the table,” she said. “He put it on the table and got down to wait for me. He was running away from them.” His family claimed that he was mentally disabled.
A statement issued by the family later on Monday blamed police for using poor judgment and acting in an unprofessional manner. 
"Trained police officers are supposed to be able to neutralize a suspect, a mentally ill individual, without killing him," the victim's family said. 
Attorney Albir Nakhas, representing the family, added that "it can't be that any mentally ill person will find his death by the hands of police officers, who are expected to handle the situation professionally." 
Five bullets were found at the scene, with three bullets reportedly hitting Anabtau, according to KAN news.
The officer involved in the incident claimed that he was stabbed by the suspect and had no where to escape to. "I had to defend myself and to use my handgun as a last resort," he said. 
The Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP) has opened an investigation into the incident.
The Haifa District Court has issued a gag order on the investigation and its details, including on the names of the victim, involved officers and their family members. 
Accordingly, any and all court hearings will be held behind closed doors, the court ruled.
The incident is the latest in a series of killings of Arab-Israelis since the beginning of this year in which police gunfire was involved, with four Arab-Israelis killed in incidents involving police gunfire so far in 2021.
In February, Ahmad Hijazi, a 22-year-old nursing student from Tamra, was shot and killed during a firefight between police and criminals in Tamra. It is unclear who fired the bullet that killed Hijazi.
At the time, Arab-Israelis expressed outrage at what they saw as police negligence.
“If a police officer in the State of Israel, who deals with criminals in his profession, does not know how to distinguish between a criminal and a person, this is not a mistake – it is negligence,” Muhammad Aramush, a doctor who was injured in the incident, told Channel 12.
Last year, Border Police shot and killed 32-year-old special-needs student Iyad al-Halak, a resident of Wadi Joz in east Jerusalem, near Lions’ Gate of the Old City after they noticed him holding a “suspicious object” that they said looked like a gun. The suspicious object was never found. After Halak fled the scene, police officers pursued him, shooting at him multiple times and eventually killing him.
Border Police officers claimed that local police initiated the chase and caused the misunderstanding. Halak’s social worker reportedly shouted at the officers that he was disabled.
According to the Abraham Initiatives organization, 22 Arab-Israelis and six Arabs who were not citizens have been killed since the beginning of the year in Israel in incidents connected to violence and crime. In four of the cases, police gunfire was involved.
"It is inconceivable that a call for assistance to the police would end in a killing, all the more so when it was known that he was mentally ill," said the Abraham Initiatives. "This terrible result indicates a profound failure in the police's handling of the case, and this leads to a greater undermining of the relationship between the police and Arab society. We call for a determined DIP investigation, in order to bring those responsible to justice and draw conclusions for the future. Only in this way will it be possible to reverse citizens' trust in the law enforcement system."
Last year was the bloodiest year for Arab-Israeli society since the recording of murder rates began, with the Abraham Initiatives reporting that 96 citizens were murdered and hundreds were seriously wounded. The Aman Center for Combating Violence in Arab Society reported that 113 citizens were murdered. In comparison, 89 Arab citizens were killed in 2019.
December 2020 also marked the bloodiest month on record, with 17 murders. The organization warned that 2021 would likely be just as bloody, as already in the first months of the year a number of murders have been reported, alongside the large-scale theft of ammunition from the IDF.
Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.