After five people were shot to death in a village near Nazareth on Thursday, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said he will deploy the Shin Bet intelligence agency to stem the wave of violent killings sweeping Israeli Arab communities.
The five men, all in their 20s and 30s, were killed when gunmen opened fire at a car wash in the Arab village of Yafa an-Naseriyye in northern Israel. The men were rushed to the Nazareth hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
Police suspect the attack was part of a feud between organised crime families that has claimed more than 20 lives in the past two years. The latest fatalities bring the number of murders in Arab towns and villages this year to 97.
President Yitzhak Herzog said Israel was facing an “emergency.”
“The civilian terrorism harms Arab society first and foremost, but it doesn’t stop there,” he said. “This is one of the most central challenges facing Israel, and we must urgently act against civilian terrorism in every way, involving all agencies.”
Earlier this week Mr Netanyahu met with Arab politicians and promised to act, labelling the gunmen behind the violent attacks as “terrorists”.
Following Thursday’s shooting he issued a video statement saying he was “horrified” by the mass slaying. “We are determined to stop this cycle of murders. We do this not only with police reinforcements but with the help of the Shin Bet [the Israel Security Agency]. I’m determined to bring in the Shin Bet as an aid to the police against these criminals and criminal organisations, these murders.”
The Shin Bet closely monitors Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in an effort to track militants. However, Arab communal leaders inside Israel have expressed concerns over the possibility of the intelligence agency also being used to monitor Israeli Arab citizens, warning it could infringe their civil rights.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid carried out a scathing attack on national security minister Itamar Ben- Gvir, who is also head of the far-right, anti-Arab Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) party, following the shooting in the north, calling him “the worst and most failed minister the police have ever known”.
“The number of criminal deaths in the Arab society is growing at a frightening pace,” Mr Lapid said, urging Mr Netanyahu to sideline Mr Ben-Gvir and manage the crisis himself.
Mr Ben-Gvir, speaking at the site of Thursday’s shooting, likened the Arab community to the wild west. He backed Mr Netanyahu’s call to utilise the Shin Bet and reiterated his call to establish a national guard under his ministry.
Three other people, including a toddler, were seriously wounded in two other shooting attacks in Arab communities on Thursday