Police arrested four suspects over the weekend after several officers were assaulted on Friday morning by private security officers working for the central town of Kafr Qasim. Government and police leaders have expressed outrage at the attack on law enforcement officials in the Arab Israeli city.
Officers had attempted to enter the town’s municipality after receiving a report that someone had been violently taken into the building, but the guards refused them entry. A fight broke out and several police officers were beaten and bloodied.
Hebrew media reported on Saturday that the guards were part of an organization hired by local leaders to maintain order in the city amid the outbreak of violent crime in the Arab community. According to Channel 13 News, MP Walid Taha from the coalition Ra’am party was himself involved in the formation of the group. Taha did not comment.
In response to the attack on the officers, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday condemned “violence in Arab society” which he said has “reached an intolerable point”.
He tweeted: “We will fight it with all our might. I expect the Arab community, which has asked the state to intervene, to fully support and support the police.
Public Security Minister Omer Barlev called the private security guards a “local militia”, adding that “the suspects who have been arrested and anyone who thinks they can raise a hand against those in uniform will be brought to justice.”
In a video of the incident, officers could be seen arguing with a man who apparently blocked the door to the building as the scuffle developed, and one of the officers used a taser.
The apparently phased tasé man then punched the officer in the face several times, causing him to fall to the ground, as others scuffled with another cop.
Shortly after, as two officers attempted to arrest a suspect, another man came out of the building and could be seen assaulting officers.
Two policemen and a volunteer policeman had to receive medical treatment after the fight.
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During a pre-trial detention hearing for two of the suspects, a police official described the guards as “a kind of private police” in Kafr Qasim. The two suspects were ordered to remain in detention for another two days.
“These are people who took justice into their own hands,” said the police representative.
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Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai denounced the assault.
“We will not accept a situation where police officers are injured in the line of duty,” Shabtai said. “We will not let this go… We will do everything to bring the offenders to justice.
The municipality issued a statement on Saturday denouncing the incident, saying the attack on the cops was “scandalous” and condemning any attack on officers “doing their job” in Kafr Qasim. He thanked the police for their role in keeping the city safe.
The incident came as police were trying to tackle a rising wave of violent crime in the Arab community. A 40-year-old Arab man was gunned down on a Haifa street on Friday evening, the 95th death from widespread violence in Arab society this year.
Ra’am coalition party leader Mansour Abbas said on Saturday he had spoken to the police chief to “express unequivocal condemnation” of the attack on officers and to wish a speedy recovery to the injured. He “stressed the obligation to respect the law” and called for increased cooperation between the police and Arab citizens “so that we can defeat the crime and the incipient violence in Arab society”.