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Arab Israelis protest over crime wave

Demonstrators shout slogans as they protest against the killing of five Arab Israelis in the village of Yafia, west of Nazareth
— Yafia (Israel) (AFP)

Thousands of Arab Israelis protested Friday in the country's north following the funerals of five killed in one of the worst crime waves to hit the minority in recent years.

The five Arab Israelis, including a 15-year-old, were shot dead on Thursday at a car wash in Yafia, an Arab town near the city of Nazareth, police said.

Since the start of the year, close to 100 people have been killed in crime-related violence in Arab Israeli communities, according to NGOs.

At the protest near the city of Nazareth, demonstrators raised banners reading "it is my right to live in safety" and "Yafia has lots her sons".

Mourners attended the burial of two of the five victims at the Catholic Church in Yafia on Friday.

The other three are to be buried according to Muslim traditions.

Arabs in Israel have long complained of discrimination and police inaction against violence and crime that disproportionately affects their communities.

Experts say Arab gangs have amassed large quantities of illegal weapons over the past two decades and are involved in drugs, arms and human trafficking, prostitution, extortion and money laundering.

Mourners carry the coffins of two of the five Arab Israelis killed a day earlier in the village of Yafia

On May 30, elected officials and representatives of the Arab minority protested in Jerusalem and called on the government to increase security.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a decision to form a steering committee following a meeting with Arab lawmakers to discuss "solutions to the wave of murders in the Arab society".

On Thursday, he said he was "determined to stop this chain of murders" and would see that happen by not only reinforcing police but also "with the help of the Shin Bet".

The internal security agency does not normally investigate criminal activity.

Around 20 percent of Israel's population are Arabs, largely descendants of Palestinians who stayed on their land after Israel's creation in 1948. Many of them identify as Palestinians.

The figures include the population of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, both annexed by Israel in a move not recognised by the UN.