‘Operation Sword Strike’ launched to seize illegal weapons, combat crime in Israel’s Arab sector

The five-year initiative, which Bennett began to formulate as soon as he took office, is being defined by the prime minister as the “main goal” of his government.

by Meira Svirsky, World Israel News

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced on Wednesday a $770 million plan to fight crime in the Arab sector. The five-year initiative, which Bennett began to formulate as soon as he took office, is being defined by the prime minister as the “main goal” of his government, which includes the Islamist Ra’am party.

Decrying the “neglect” of previous governments, Bennett said at a police station on Wednesday, “Today, the Arab sector constitutes 20% of the population of Israel but accounts for 60% of the crime. This situation cannot be …”

“At these very moments we are completing ‘Operation Sword Strike’ against over 200 targets throughout the country to capture illegal weapons, from Arara, Hura and Rahat in the south, to Shfaram, Kafr Kana and villages in the north,” he added, while inspecting some of the illegal weapons seized by the police in the operation.

While praising the success of the raids, Bennett noted, “this is only the beginning. Our test is not at the start but in the persistence and determination to defeat and uproot crime, and collect weapons, so that a girl from the Arab sector can study for matriculation without shots being fired in the street.”

The operation involved 1,000 police officers against  284 intelligence targets who had been identified as owners of illegal weapons, arms traffickers and suspects of violent crimes, according to Israel Police Inspector General Koby Shabtai, who joined Bennett at the police station.

The inauguration of the plan follows a week in which five Arabs were murdered due to violent crime. Since the beginning of the year, 69 Arabs have been killed in violent incidents, including 10 women and 34 Arabs under the age of 30, according to the Abraham Initiatives organization.

Last year, 113 Arab-Israeli citizens were murdered, an increase from 89 Arab-Israelis who were killed in 2019, the organization says.

The government’s plan includes increasing police presence in towns and highways, strengthening intelligence and investigation capabilities and the use of advanced technological to support enforcement and prevention of crime. It will include targeting crime families and protection rackets.

According to the plan 1,100 new personnel will be added to the Israel Police as well as two new police stations in Tabor and Jisr az-Zarqa. The plan will also be expanded to additional cities, especially mixed cities where Arab and Jews live together.

In March, under the previous Israeli government, the Cabinet approved a $45 million plan to combat crime in the Arab sector. That plan included building and expanding five police stations, two fire stations and multi-purpose buildings for community services in Arab communities, as well as establishing a special Israel Police unit dedicated to fighting crime in the sector. The plan also included two organized campaigns to seize illegal weapons.

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