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Israel’s top Arab police officer takes leave pending probe

January 24, 2022 GMT

JERUSALEM (AP) — The highest-ranking Arab Muslim in Israel’s police force has taken leave, the police said Monday, after video emerged showing him tripping over a stabbing victim as he left the scene of a crime in 2020.

Maj. Gen. Jamal Hakroosh, 64, made history when he was appointed deputy commissioner in 2016 to lead outreach efforts to Israel’s Arab minority. Violent crime within the community has soared in recent years, fueled by organized crime and family feuds.

In September 2020, Hakroosh went to the office of a factory in his hometown of Kfar Qana on business, where a fight broke out between two men, one of whom stabbed the other in the chest.

Security camera footage obtained by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper shows Hakroosh walking down a stairwell and tripping over the man who had been stabbed before heading out the door. Hakroosh ignored the assailant, who was barricaded in another room, and did not provide first aid to the stabbing victim, Haaretz said.

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The police said in a statement that an investigation has been launched and that Hakroosh would go on leave until it is completed.

Arab citizens of Israel, who make up some 20% of the country’s population of 9.5 million, face widespread discrimination. Community leaders have long accused Israeli authorities of ignoring crime in their communities because it does not affect Jews.

The government has launched a number of initiatives to address crime in recent years, including increasing the budget for policing and enlisting the army and its internal security agency. But many Arabs distrust the Jewish-dominated force, hindering cooperation.

Israel’s current government, the first to include an Arab party, has redoubled efforts to fight crime in the community.

At least 125 Arabs were murdered in 2021, making it the deadliest year on record, according to the Abraham Initiatives, a nonprofit that promotes Jewish-Arab coexistence.