2 more suspects arrested over attack on Arab taxi driver by right-wing protesters

Rioting group in Jerusalem chased man, damaged his vehicle after rally in support of judicial overhaul; pro-government march to be held in Tel Aviv Thursday evening

Right-wing rioters run toward an Arab taxi driver at a gas station in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Right-wing rioters run toward an Arab taxi driver at a gas station in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Screenshot used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Two more suspects have been arrested over an assault on an Arab taxi driver by a large gang of rioting pro-government demonstrators in Jerusalem, police said Thursday.

Police said Monday the taxi driver found himself surrounded by right-wing protesters in Jerusalem, who began pelting his vehicle with objects and fists.

The driver tried to flee via a nearby gas station on Ben Tzvi Boulevard, but was then “savagely attacked by the rioters who chased him and caused heavy damage to his car,” police said. The victim’s condition was unknown.

Police said the suspects were aged 22 and 26, and were residents of the center of the country.

A 17-year-old from Jerusalem was arrested on Tuesday in connection with the same attack. A family member of that suspect lied to police about the teen’s whereabouts when officers arrived at the suspect’s home, police said, as the suspect attempted to flee via a balcony.

Both the teen and the family member were arrested, according to police, the latter on suspicion of obstructing an investigation and aiding the suspect’s escape attempt.

The three suspects thought to be involved in the assault were set to appear in court later on Thursday for a custody hearing. It was not clear what would happen to the family member.

On Thursday evening, right-wing groups were set to hold another march and rally in support of the overhaul, this time in central Tel Aviv — the stronghold of the anti-overhaul protests.

The attack on the taxi driver was one of a number of recent incidents of violence, harassment and intimidation by right-wing protesters against demonstrators opposed to the judicial overhaul, Arab passersby, members of the press and police officers.

Right-wing protesters temporarily blocked the Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Ben Zvi roads near the entrance of Jerusalem on Monday, and footage from the Kan public broadcaster shows them setting a fire on the road and adding items to expand the flames.

Chants of “Death to Arabs” can be heard in the background.

The rioting pro-overhaul protesters in Jerusalem included dozens of members of the extremist right-wing La Familia group — nominally a fan club of Jerusalem’s Beitar soccer team, though the team has repeatedly distanced itself from the organization due to its racist rhetoric and violent antics. Security officials have previously called to outlaw it as a terrorist organization.

Hours before the attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to establish a “national guard” that would fall under the direct authority of far-right National Security Minister Ben Gvir in exchange for the Otzma Yehudit leader backing his decision to pause the judicial overhaul legislation.

Right-wing protesters block roads and set a fire in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Israel Police)

On Monday in Jerusalem, a crowd of of right-wing protesters were also seen assailing an Arab pedestrian who was rescued by police officers and passersby.

A television news team from Channel 13 was also attacked during the demonstration. Channel 13 reporter Yossi Eli was hospitalized with a broken rib and suspected damage to his spleen and cameraman Avi Cashman suffered a head injury.

Extremists also attacked anti-overhaul protesters in Tel Aviv.

And far-right activists additionally attacked and threatened drivers at the entrances to two kibbutz communities due to their belief that residents opposed Netanyahu and his government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary.

Opposition leaders have urged the government and police to clamp down on the violence by government supporters.

Netanyahu has for weeks accused the largely peaceful anti-government protesters of violence and of plotting political assassinations.

Mass protests have been held for nearly three months against the planned legislation, which critics say will politicize the court, remove key checks on governmental power and cause grievous harm to Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will rein in a judiciary that they argue has overstepped its bounds.

Netanyahu on Monday night announced he was temporarily halting the legislation to allow for talks.

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