Within a matter of hours, two young men in Umm al-Fahm were shot dead in two separate shootings in the crime-ridden Israeli Arab city in the Wadi Ara region.
In the first incident, around 5pm police received a call about a man suffering from gunshot wounds in the city’s Al Bir neighborhood. The victim, later named as Muhammed Agbariya, 26, was taken to Valley Medical Center in Afula, where he later died of his wounds.
Just around two hours later, Hussein Mahajna, 27, was found shot in the city, and was also rushed from the scene in critical condition to the Valley Medical Center, where he was ruled dead.
Both murders are being investigated by the Coastal District’s special investigative unit.
The Coastal District police spokesman said that both victims were known to police and that detectives have not ruled out the possibility that there is a connection between the two murders. The spokesman added that so far no arrests have been made, and that due to a gag order on the case, they cannot give out details about how the murders were carried out, and if the shooters arrived on foot or by vehicle.
The two murders are the latest in a city that – like cities and villages across the Arab sector – has for years suffered from a disproportionately high rate of violent crime.
Earlier this month, the Israel Police appointed a Muslim commander – Jamal Hachrush – to the rank of Assistant Chief, the second highest in the police and the highest rank ever held by a Muslim.
Hachrush will be tasked with running a special branch of the Israel Police that will deal specifically with the problems facing the Arab public. The branch, which has yet to launched, is part of a multi-year multi-billion shekel plan by police to open 10 new police stations in Arab communities and to recruit 1,300 more Arab police officers.
Hachrush’s promotion was first announced by Police Commissioner Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich during a Knesset committee meeting in February, in which he said crime in the Arab sector is unacceptable and a source of great suffering for everyday citizens.
He also presented figures that illustrate the disproportionately high crime create among Arab Israelis, who make up about 21% of the population but account for 59% of murders and 32% of property crimes.
Their communities are also overrun by illegal firearms – which, while expensive, are widely available on the black market – and riven by family disputes, organized crime, and the drug trade.