Fear and loathing in Israel's wild, wild south

Locals describe a reality redolent of a war zone, with constant gunfire ringing out throughout their neighborhoods and an endless spate of burglaries and robberies as the government fails to crack down on organized crime

Attila Somfalvi|
Israel's southern region has long been bedeviled by organized crime, but in recent years, rogue elements within the Bedouin population have been terrorizing locals in ever-growing frequency and intensity.
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  • The mayor of the southern city of Dimona Benny Bitton even said that southern Israel was overrun by crime "militias" and joined Be'er Sheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovich in his call on the government to bring back governance to the region "immediately, with full force and with no compromise."
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    פשיעה וחוסר משילות בדרום
    פשיעה וחוסר משילות בדרום
    Bedouin crime syndicates in southern Israel hold large arsenals of illegal firearms
    (Photo: Israel Police)
    Ynet spoke to some locals who describe a reality redolent of a war zone, with constant gunfire ringing out throughout their neighborhoods and an endless spate of burglaries and robberies.
    "This is a national issue that no one can address. We suffer from it day by day, hour by hour. No one can give us answers," says Tzipora Khalfon from Be'er Sheba. "Lots of cops are quitting. This has to set off the alarm for us. We're facing a serious crisis and if nobody puts an end to this, I've got no idea who will keep us safe.
    Khalfon says she decided to volunteer with the Border Police to guard herself, her home and her children to retrieve some sense of security.
    "If I cannot drive on the roads of the Negev at night, if I am afraid to go to all kinds of places because I know there is no one to take care of me, then I will do it myself," she said.
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    ההפגנה בנגב
    ההפגנה בנגב
    Demonstrators protest surging crime in southern Israel, February 24, 2021
    (Photo: Shira Avrahami)
    "We can't just pick up a weapon and take the law into our own hands. Say I live on the ground floor and somebody's trying to break into my home. What am I supposed to do? I see it on the roads too. I see how farmers are getting looted. The produce they worked so hard to grow is being stolen right out of the farmland they worked so hard to toil. Who can stop this?"
    Barak Dvir lives in the town of Omer near Be'er Sheba and says gunshots have already become inextricably embedded in the area's atmosphere.
    "After 5pm, you can hear bursts of gunfire and bullets land in our yards here in Omer where our children play. Some families have even found bullets in their living room," he said.
    "We can't keep living like this, we want the government to declare a national emergency. We call on the government to intervene. Don't send the prime minister on a visit and then have the situation persist like this. Provide us with tools, with solutions.
    It's scary. All my friends consider leaving. Job prospects are not that great either. Our personal safety is compromised time and time again and it is impossible to walk down the street here peacefully, so we're thinking about leaving."
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