The Israeli-Arab actor Juliano Mer-Khamis was shot to death in Jenin, Palestinian police in the West Bank announced.
The actor was shot by a number of masked men who fired at him while he was sitting in his car near the theater he established, afterwards fleeing the scene, witnesses say. Mer-Khamis has resided in Jenin and Haifa alternately.
Civil Administration officials say his body has been transferred to the Abu-Kabir Forensic Institute.
Actor shot while parked outside of theater (Photo: AFP)
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad vowed a few hours later to find whoever had killed Mer-Khamis. "We must not ignore this heinous crime," he said, calling the murder "a gross violation of humane values and against the morals of our people".
Fayyad added that he had ordered security services to catch the criminals. "We must treat this crime seriously," he said. "We must not allow, under any circumstances, security chaos."
The 52-year old Mer-Khamis, a pro-Palestinian political activist born to a Jewish mother and Arab father, has previously received death threats after establishing the Freedom Theater at Jenin's refugee camp.
Jenin Governor Kadura Musa denounced the murder, saying he "strongly condemns the murder of Mer-Khamis, who showed solidarity with the Palestinian people."
Musa stated that Palestinian security forces have yet to obtain any information on the identity of the killers, but noted that a special committee will be set up to examine the circumstances of the incident.
Residents of the refugee camp disseminated fliers in 2009 calling the actor a fifth column. "If words don't help we will have to speak in bullets," the fliers said.
The theater, which became one of the city's main culture centers since its establishment five years ago, has sustained many firebomb attacks. In April of 2009 the theater's door was torched.
|Scene of Mer-Khamis's murder|
In an interview with Ynet that year, Mer-Khamis said he feared for his life. "But what choice do I have? To run? I am not a fleeing man," he said.
"I am an elite force man, formerly of the paratroopers. The only two things I gained from Israeli culture are Shlonsky's translations of Shakespeare and adequate field training. Now I need it."
However, the actor added, he was taking precautions. Of those behind the fliers he said, "It makes them crazy that a man who is half-Jewish is at the head of one of the most important projects in the Palestinian West Bank and it is just hypocritical racism."
"I have never been as Jewish as I am right now in Jenin. After all this work at the camp it would be extremely unfortunate to die of a Palestinian bullet," he added in a moment of clairvoyance.
Mer-Khamis began his acting career in 1984, when he starred opposite Diane Keaton in 'The Little Drummer Girl'. He has also starred in Amos Gitai's 'Kippur', and was nominated for Best Actor by the Israeli academy for the film 'Tahara' in 2002.
The actor also starred in numerous theater productions, including a monologue. In 2002 he visited children who grew up in Jenin, and who his mother took in at a kindergarten she established in the refugee camp. He documented his visit in the film 'Arna's Children', which won a prize at Canada's HotDocs festival.