Mass protests erupted in three Arab towns in Israel on Tuesday night over the killing of a civilian bystander in a shootout between police and criminals the night before.
Thousands of Arab Israelis took to the streets to protest the incident in Tamra, Umm al-Fahm and Nazareth.
Two men in their 20s were killed in the shootout which took place in the Arab city of Tamra in northern Israel—one of them an underworld suspect and the other an innocent person who had come out of his house to see what was going on.
The victim was identified as 22-year-old Ahmed Hijazi, a nursing student, according to media reports. He was supposed to start working at the Carmel Medical Center on Tuesday.
The angry protests followed news that the two policemen involved in the incident were questioned and released unconditionally earlier on Tuesday. They claimed during several hours of interrogation by police investigators that they opened fire because they believed their lives were in danger. The criminals involved reportedly shot at police with an M1 rifle.
MK Jaber Asaqla of the Joint List wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday night that he was “currently with thousands of protesters at the Tamra junction. Citizens who shout an outcry of anger that have become a victim of ongoing contempt and neglect by law enforcement.”
“Frustrated citizens who do not feel safe leaving their homes because the police who need to keep them safe are doing the exact opposite,” Asaqla added.
Muhammad Aramush, a doctor who was injured in the incident, told Channel 12 that a police officer shot him and Hijazi. “I do not want to tell you that this is a mistake – this is not a mistake,” he said.
“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.”
Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz called for an urgent investigation into the incident, not just by the police internal unit.
Joint List faction MK Ahmed Tibi also demanded an investigation.
2020 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, while 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 over 17 murders in just one month, according to The Jerusalem Post.
The incident comes just days after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pledged to Arab leaders he will submit a plan to crush criminal activity in their sector.