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Israel's Druze community on strike after quadruple homicide

Israel's Druze community is shocked by the killing of four men in broad daylight, including a former soldier who was running for local office.

The Druze community in Israel is on strike Wednesday after the murder of four Druze men on Tuesday evening. The four were shot in the northern Druze town of Abu Snan, bringing the number of Arab Israelis killed since the beginning of the year to 158.

One of the victims was Ghazi Sa'ad, who was running for mayor in the upcoming municipal elections, scheduled for the end of October. He had served for several years as senior officer at the IDF border police force. Two other victims — Zahir al-Din Sa'ab and Amir Sa'ab — were related to Sa’ad and also from the town of Abu Snan. The fourth victim was Salman Halbi from the nearby village of Yarka.

The reason for the shooting is yet unknown. Family members said that the murder took place at a plot where Amir Sa’ad was constructing a guest house. Zahir al-Din Sa'ab and Ghazi Sa'ad apparently came to visit him and invited Salman Halbi, who was working at his olive plantation nearby, to join them for coffee. The three were sitting together drinking coffee when they were shot.

The community’s spiritual leader Sheikh Muffed Tarif announced the strike as he and heads of Druze municipal and regional councils met with Knesset members to discuss the ongoing wave of violence in the Arab and Druze sectors. Tarif said, “The Druze community places the responsibility for the lack of security in the north on the police and the government,” and noted that the strike is “an act of protest against the failures of the police and the government in enforcing the law and personal security.”

The Abu Sanan deaths follow that of the head of the Tira municipality and the injuring of two others on Monday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged after the Tira incident to fight the rising crime and violence within the Arab sector. On Wednesday or Thursday, the security cabinet is expected to discuss a proposal to bring in the Shin Bet security agency to quell the violence and proliferation of arms within the Arab sector. Also on Tuesday, heads of Arab towns and villages protested in Jerusalem, criticizing the failure of the government and the police to stope the long years of violence.

Druze community leaders have with mixed feelings about a statement by Police Commissioner Kobi Shoshani that the recent killings did not appear to be related to the election. He called them "the product of a conflict between criminal organizations.” Abu Snan Mayor Fauzi Mashlab told Haaretz that the election campaigning was peaceful, as it has always been in the town, noting that the different candidates for heading the municipality are relatives and on very good terms. Residents rejected the idea of the victims' involvement in criminal activities, saying that none belonged to any such group.

Since the establishment of Israel, many Druze men have served in the IDF, including in senior positions, in what is often referred to as an "alliance of blood" between the Druze and the Jewish peoples. With the surge in violence, many Druze feel that Israeli authorities have betrayed them, failing to guarantee their security despite their loyalty to the state.

Despite the prevailing loyalty of the Druze community to the state of its military, Druze towns and villages have joined several general protests and strikes organized by the heads of Arab local and regional councils over the state's failure to curb crime.

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