17-year-old honors student caught in Arab violence crossfire

Initial investigations estimate that Abbas was sitting in her room when the bullet struck. The Israel Police arrested six individuals suspected of involvement in the incident.

Police tape is seen in Jerusalem as coronavirus restrictions are imposed on the city. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Police tape is seen in Jerusalem as coronavirus restrictions are imposed on the city.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

A 45-minute shootout between two warring families overnight Tuesday in northern Israel resulted in the death of 17-year-old Razan Abbas.

According to the Abraham Accords, a nonprofit focused on coexistence among the Israeli and Arab sectors, Abbas marks the 17th Arab death caused by violence and crime in the first 10 weeks of 2022.

Out of the 17, three were women; 10 were shot dead; nine were under the age of 30.

Dr. Thabet Abu Rass, co-executive director of Abraham Initiatives, called the number of dead “alarming,” and that “at this rate, we will reach the same figure as we did last year: 126.”

According to police, a report was received in the middle of the night of shots fired toward residential homes in Kafr Kanna, an Arab town in lower Galilee near Nazareth. Walla reported that the suspects entered the town, shot toward an electrical board to cut the streetlights, and in the dark, shot toward a series of residential homes.

It is believed that Abbas was sitting in her room when the bullet struck. The police arrested six individuals suspected of involvement in the incident.

Abbas was treated by Magen David Adom on the scene and taken to a hospital in Nazareth, where medical staff pronounced her dead. The regional council declared a day of mourning in the wake of the shooting.

“I ran to her room when I heard her yell, ‘Dad! Dad!” Razan’s father told KAN. “The bullet came from the opposite direction. It hit her before we could do anything. I didn’t know what to do. She fell immediately.”

How did this happen?

Razan’s grandfather, Muhammad, who lives a building away from Razan’s family, told KAN Radio that “we live smack in between two feuding families. One began shooting toward the other. Razan heard the shots and stood up to go be closer to her father out of fear. As soon as I saw where the bullet hit her smack in the chest, I knew it was fatal.”

Asked by KAN if this happens a lot, Muhammad answered, “Yes, every couple of nights. We asked them to stop. We are not involved in the conflict. We actually tried to make peace between them.”

RAZAN WAS “intelligent, smart, top of her class,” said her grandfather, adding that she was about to take her matriculation exams, and had planned to take the psychometric exam and apply to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

“We are an educated, working, committed family,” said Muhammad. “We had no interest in this. I blame the families.”

Public Security Minister Omer Bar Lev tweeted that “Razan Abbas was an innocent bystander in a difficult situation. Her death is shocking and disturbing; her entire life was ahead of her.”

In January, a four-year-old boy, Omar Hajirat, was killed in a playground by a stray bullet fired several hundred meters away in a Galilee Bedouin settlement up north.

Four people were arrested at the time, and many public figures expressed their shock and sorrow at the incident.

“This isn’t new,” Faares, a family friend who lives five minutes away from the Abbas family, told 103FM. “This happens all the time. The only question we ask is when this will happen next. The whole state heard the shots for 45 minutes. No one did anything. After 40 minutes, the first police car showed up. This is what life is like in the Arab sector: gunshots, weapons, just waiting for the next death.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar tweeted, “I am horrified by the tragic death of teenager Razan Abbas from a shooting incident in Kafr Kanna. [She is] another innocent victim of the crime and violence running rampant in the Arab sector. The biggest crime to Israel is not external, it is internal. We must keep working toward tightening the law.”

Abu Rass said that some “are saying that it is a stray bullet. I think it’s more of stray-mindedness, to those who don’t understand that this happens all the time.”

“Forgive me,” Faares added, “but if this were to happen in a Jewish neighborhood, it would have been over in five minutes.”

A 30-year-old teacher from Ramle, Sharifa Abu Muammar, was killed in September by stray bullets. Two suspects were later indicted by the police.

“The Israel Police is doing a much better job at the moment, seizing weapons and arms from some of the gangs, committing more arrests,” said Abu Rass. “It’s a triangle: the Arab community needs to do more and condemn the killing. The government needs to be more involved than it is. The police need to crack down on arms and gangs.”