JERUSALEM, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Five Arab citizens of Israel were killed in a shooting in northern Israel on Thursday amid mounting criticism over the government's inaction in addressing an escalating crime within Arab society.
The local Magen David Adom rescue service said in a press release that the five men were evacuated to the English Hospital in Nazareth. According to a statement issued by the police, their deaths were pronounced at the hospital.
The police said that the shooting occurred outside a car wash in Yafa, an Arab town near the city of Nazareth. They described the incident as a criminal act but did not provide further details.
Israel's state-owned Kan TV news reported that the shooting appeared to be a result of an ongoing conflict between two local crime families in the northern region.
Also on Thursday, a three-year-old girl and a man in his 30s, both Arab citizens of Israel, were shot in Kafr Kanna, another Arab town north of Nazareth. According to statements from Magen David Adom and the police, they were hit by errant fire and suffered critical injuries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the killings in a video statement, expressing his "shock" and vowing to take immediate action.
He pledged to reinforce police forces and deploy the Shin Bet security service, traditionally focused on terrorism, to combat the criminal organizations responsible for the violence.
Since the start of 2023, at least 96 Arab citizens of Israel have been killed amid soaring crime rates within Arab society, according to the police. Arab lawmakers and activists have accused the Israeli government of neglecting law enforcement in Arab towns, which they perceive as part of a broader discrimination against Arabs in the country.
Israeli Arabs, who constitute approximately 20 percent of the country's 9.7 million population, are descendants of the Palestinians who stayed put during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. ■