Israel said Wednesday it arrested more than 40 criminal suspects in police raids across the country, marking the launch of a plan to battle crime in Arab communities.
Israel’s Arab minority has called for better law enforcement as it dealt with a wave of violent crime in recent years.
Arab activists accuse Israeli authorities of ignoring violence not aimed at Jews, while the police blame a lack of co-operation from community leaders.
Improving law enforcement was a key demand of the United Arab List, which became the first Arab party to sit in a ruling coalition when the government was sworn in two months ago.
In an operation launched early on Wednesday, about 1,000 officers raided more than 280 targets, apprehending 41 suspects and seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars related to weapons trafficking, police said.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the raids were part of a new plan to fight crime in Arab communities, which was approved in July and includes a new branch.
“My government is determined to take action and wage an unceasing, constant and persistent fight, with full force, against crime and violence in the Arab sector,” Mr Bennett said.
The plan calls for speeding up the prosecution of alleged criminals, breaking up organised crime and improving co-operation with community leaders.
The Israeli police will add about 1,100 personnel to its ranks.
“In the past decade, previous governments of Israel presented lofty plans more than once, but we have come to act,” Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said.
Israel’s Arab minority makes up about 20 per cent of the population.
They have citizenship, including the right to vote, but face widespread discrimination.
They have close familial ties to the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and largely identify with their cause, leading many Israeli Jews to view them with suspicion.
Jewish-Arab tensions boiled over during the Gaza war in May, when large groups of Arabs and Jews in many cities fought each other in the streets, torched property and assaulted passers-by.