2023 was the bloodiest year in Israel’s history in terms of crime and violence in Arab society: 244 Arab citizens lost their lives under circumstances of crime and violence.
The number of fatalities was more than double (2.1 times) that in the previous year, despite a decrease in the number of victims following the outbreak of the Iron Swords War on October 7 (the number of fatalities from October 7 through the end of 2023 was higher than that for the same period in 2022). The significant increase in the total number of fatalities followed a decrease in numbers during 2022 compared to numbers in 2021.
The Rise in the Number of Fatalities
An analysis of the statistics shows that there has been an increase in homicides in all parts of Israel. However, the increase is particularly significant in the north. The main reason for this is the heightened activity of criminal organizations in this region. In addition, the significant actions undertaken by the police under the Bennett-Lapid government to combat the criminal organizations in this region led to struggles for control within the criminal organizations and turf wars between organizations & between factions within the same organization. These conflicts caused numerous fatalities in 2023.
Based on reports from diverse sources, including statements by the Israel Police, media reports, and information from the field, we assessed the background of numerous homicide instances. Our assessment found that over two-thirds of the incidents (71.7%) were due to struggles between criminal organizations or part of family and clan conflicts.
It is important to note in this context that these victims include individuals who were killed in revenge attacks due to these conflicts and their family affiliation, and not because they were involved in criminal activities. Approximately 7.7% of the incidents involved death in brawls or in spontaneous violence, while 4.5% occurred in the context of domestic violence and violence relating to gender and sexual orientation. The background to a significant proportion of the incidents (11.8%) remains unknown.
No. of Fatalities by Month
he monthly number of fatalities rose over the year, reaching a peak of 29 in September. The graph also shows the sharp fall in the number of fatalities since the beginning of the war. Nevertheless, the number of fatalities each month is higher than in the same month last year.
Impact of the War: Fall in the number of fatalities
The horrific events of October 7 stunned the entire country. In the two months since that Saturday, a 50.8% decrease was recorded in the number of fatalities in comparison to the two months preceding October 7.
One possible explanation for this is that as soon as the war began, the police presence in Arab communities was expanded significantly, in part due to concerns about possible clashes.
It can also be assumed that the criminal organizations decided to adopt a lower profile and reduce the scope of their activities, both due to concerns about the enhanced police presence and due to fear that the police would adopt a more trigger-happy approach during the emergency. It is also possible that the expanded presence of the defense system in its entirety contributed to a reduction in instances of crime and violence.
No. of Victims by Geographical Region
The largest number of fatalities (102 – 41.8%) this year came from Galilee, followed by the “Triangle” region (69 – 28.2%), the mixed cities (33 – 13.5%), and the Negev (28 – 11.4%).
Proportional to the number of Arab citizens living in each region, the number of fatalities in the Galilee and Negev was below these regions’ relative proportion of Arab population.
While the proportion of fatalities in the “Triangle” region and the mixed cities was higher than their relative proportion:
Galilee and the Negev are home to 49.9% and 17.5% of Arab citizens, respectively, while the proportion of fatalities in these regions is 41.8% and 11.4%, respectively.
The “Triangle” region and the mixed cities are home to 19.7% and 8.3% of Arab citizens, respectively, while the proportion of fatalities in these regions is 28.2% and 13.5%, respectively.
The Cities with the Most Fatalities
Nazareth and Lod recorded the highest number of fatalities among their residents (17 each). Nazareth became a focal point for crime in 2023, and if the surrounding areas are included (Yafia, Kafr Kana, Iksal, Ilut, and Ein Mahal) the figure rises to 28.
Among the mixed cities, Ramle (10) and Haifa (9) are particularly prominent.
In the south, Rahat is prominent: 12 residents of the city lost their lives over 2023 in circumstances of violence and crime. This figure is equal to the number of fatalities among residents of Rahat during the four preceding years together (2019–2022).