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Two men gunned down in Galilee, near site of August quadruple murder

Two men were found shot dead in an olive grove in Abu Snan Wednesday morning, two weeks after four people were gunned down in the Galilee town, amid a bloody underworld war that has sent murder rates in Arab society soaring.

The killings brought the toll of slayings in the Arab community this year to 169, according to the Abraham Initiatives anti-violence advocacy group, with the record-breaking pace of murders showing little sign of slowing. There were 75 murders over the same period last year.

The two men, in their 30s, were found dead in a vehicle parked in an olive grove near a highway north of the town, paramedics said.

According to media reports the victims, who were not named, appeared to be from the same family, possibly brothers.

The killings bore a marked resemblance to a quadruple homicide on August 22 in which three cousins, one of whom is a candidate for mayor, and a fourth man were gunned down in an adjacent olive grove outside Abu Snan, apparently after being lured there for a meeting.

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The August victims were Ghazi Sa’ab, who had launched a third bid for city council hours earlier, Zohair al-Din Sa’ab, Amir Sa’ab, and Salman Halabi from nearby Yarca. The four were members of the Druze community.

Three people were arrested following the August slayings, including one person nabbed at Ben-Gurion Airport while trying to flee, police said. A gag order on most details of the case remains in place.

Police, who opened an investigation into Wednesday’s murders, did not say whether they suspected a connection between the killings.

The killings are part of a violent crime wave that has engulfed the Arab community in recent years. Many community leaders blame the police, whom they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence. They also point to decades of neglect and discrimination by government offices as the root cause of the problem.

Authorities have blamed burgeoning organized crime and the proliferation of weaponry, while some have pointed to a failure by communities to cooperate with law enforcement to root out criminals.

On Tuesday the Arab community went on strike as municipal leaders called for the establishment of an emergency committee to fight the relentless crime wave.

The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities and the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee blamed the Israeli government for the spate of killings in the Arab community and accused it of neglecting Arab Israeli citizens.

The strike saw local authorities, community centers and businesses shut their doors, and a shortened school day.