The police did not enforce coronavirus restrictions that limit the maximum number of people at a funeral to 20, and did not issue fines for violations of social distancing and mask wearing.
By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News
Some 10,000 Arab mourners gathered at the funeral of a nursing student killed in a police shootout in the northern Israeli Arab city of Tamra on Tuesday evening.
Just as in Sunday’s mass funerals in Jerusalem for prominent rabbis, the police did not enforce coronavirus restrictions that limit the maximum number of people at a funeral to 20, and did not issue fines for violations of social distancing and mask wearing.
A police statement said that officers witnessed a number of men in a vehicle shooting at a house in a residential neighborhood in Tamra. When the officers attempted to arrest the suspects, they opened fire on the police, in what the police called a “pre-planned ambush.”
Ahmed Hajazi, 22, was caught in the crossfire. According to his brother, Jaber, he’d been studying at a friend’s house and ventured outside to investigate when he heard the shooting.
“He was a nursing student, the noise got him out of the house, and straight away he got a bullet to the heart,” Jaber Hajazi told Channel 12 News.
Hajazi and one of the suspects were killed. Another bystander, Dr. Muhammad Aramush, was shot in the leg and is currently hospitalized in moderate condition.
The incident immediately sparked outrage in Tamra, with residents taking to the streets to protest, burning tires and blocking Route 70. “The city is burning,” said Jaber Hajazi.
After hours of protests, officers on horseback dispersed the crowds.
“I don’t want to say if the police blew it or not,” he told Channel 12. “My brother was killed, I don’t know by whom.”
Israel Police Northern District Commander, Maj. Gen. Nitzan Lavi, told Kan Bet radio Tuesday that while they regretted the loss of innocent life, the operation was aimed at rooting out gangsters who threaten public safety.
“We send our condolences to the family, but the bottom line is that we must understand that our active operations are intended to improve the personal safety of Tamra residents, who are suffering because of the same few criminals who are affecting the feeling of security,” said Lavi.
It is important to remind the public to withhold judgement until an investigation into the incident is completed, Lavi added later in a statement. “It is not possible to determine with certainty [from] where the shooting took place, whether from the police or from the side of the criminals.”
Arab Israeli politicians were quick to criticize the police on Twitter. “Only police indifferent to human life opens a firefight in the heart of a residential neighborhood, among innocent civilians,” tweeted former MK Esawi Frej.
“If you do not die from the gunfire of criminals, you may die from the gunfire of police,” added Joint List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman.
Since the beginning of 2021, 15 Arab Israelis have been murdered. Over 100 Arab Israelis were the victims of murder in 2020.