As tensions soar, Rivlin urges Arab Israeli leaders to be ‘clear voice’ for calm

Arab Israeli shot dead amid violent riots by Arab mob in Lod, two Jewish residents arrested; Jewish-owned homes attacked along with school, synagogue, hospital

Avi Korkas examines the damage to a municipality office that was torched in a night of violence between Arab Israeli protesters and Israel Police in the city of Lod, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)
Avi Korkas examines the damage to a municipality office that was torched in a night of violence between Arab Israeli protesters and Israel Police in the city of Lod, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)

President Reuven Rivlin urged Arab Israeli leaders on Tuesday to speak out against an outburst of violence by rioters in Arab-Jewish cities overnight.

“I just made an urgent phone call to Mudar Younes, chair of the Arab Councils Mayors Committee, and passed on a sharp message about the Arab violence that went wild in the streets of some mixed cities last night, including Lod, Ramle, and the cities of the Triangle,” Rivlin said in a statement on social media.

“We must not let those sights recur. We must not become hostages to the terrorist murderers of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who fire on Israel’s citizens indiscriminately.”

An Arab Israeli man was shot and killed and two were wounded during rioting overnight in the central city of Lod in solidarity with Palestinians clashing with Israeli forces in Jerusalem. The violent protest — during which Arab participants raised Palestinian and Hamas flags, called for “liberating Palestine,” and attacked a school, a synagogue, a pre-army military academy and city hall, according to Kan public radio — was one of several large demonstrations in Arab communities.

A rabbi inspects the damage inside a religious school in the central Israeli city of Lod, on May 11, 2021. The school was allegedly torched by a mob of local Arab residents on the night of May 10. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Reports said the Lod victims were part of a mob throwing stones and firebombs at Jewish homes in the Arab-Jewish city in central Israel and were shot by Jewish residents who had reportedly been calling police to intervene for over 45 minutes. Demonstrators also set fires and tore down street signs.

President Reuven Rivlin (R) at an interfaith event in Abu Ghosh on April 28, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Magen David Adom medics evacuated one man, 25, to the nearby Assaf Harofeh hospital, where he was pronounced dead. MDA also took a second man to the hospital, while a third was brought in by family. Both were suffering from gunshot wounds. A mob of local Arab residents also attacked medical staff at Assaf Harofeh, Kan reported, targeting Arab medical staff and castigating them for working there. Medical staff had to evacuate some patients to keep them safe from the mob, the report said.

In his statement, Rivlin said he asked Younes “to do everything in his power to calm things down. The people of Israel, Jews and Arabs alike, must hear the Arab leadership sounding a clear and strident voice against this wild violence, against damage to synagogues, against this wild behavior. The police will do all that is required to restore the peace. I ask for cooperation from the Arab leadership to restore calm and law and order to our streets.”

Police arrested a resident of the city, 34, on suspicion of being involved in the shooting. He was reportedly being investigated on suspicion of murder. A second suspect in the shooting was arrested Tuesday afternoon.

Shlomo Lahyani, a local Jewish resident, said an Arab mob attacked a synagogue and a school, and threw slabs and rocks at Jewish residents during hours of rioting. “They came with murder in their eyes,” he told Kan on Tuesday morning. “They called out, in Hebrew, ‘We are terrorists.'”

He said local Jews called the police, who did not come to the scene for over an hour. In the meantime, Jewish residents fired shots in the air to try to keep the rioters at bay. Lahyani said he did not witness the fatal confrontation but was adamant that “lives were in danger.”

“The Arab mob tried to storm our neighborhood,” Lod resident Meir Liush told the Haaretz newspaper. “It took police a long time to arrive. Residents were forced to shoot in the air, but it did not deter them until they shot at them and wounded two of them.”

Fidha Shahadeh, an Arab member of the local council, said the Arab protests were held “in the context” of the violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque and the controversy surrounding imminent evictions at East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

A man passes by cars torched after a night of violence between Israeli Arab protesters and Israeli police in the Arab-Jewish town of Lod, central Israel, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Heidi Levine)

Pictures and video from the city and the neighboring town of Ramle showed cars turned on their sides and set on fire and tires burning in the streets. Shop windows were broken. One group, chanting, “We will liberate Al-Aqsa with blood and fire,” took down an Israeli flag and put up a Palestinian flag in its place.

Also early Tuesday, two Jewish Israeli men were lightly injured when rocks were thrown at their car while driving past the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm in northern Israel, medics said. They were treated for cuts and scrapes after the rocks smashed the windscreen of the car, and were taken to Haemek hospital for further treatment, MDA said.

Police officers clash with Arab Israeli demonstrators during a protest over tension in Jerusalem, in Ramle in central Israel, on May 10, 2021.(Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The protests in Lod, Ramle and Umm al-Fahm were among several in cities and towns across Israel on Monday evening. Some of the protests turned into clashes with police, leading to dozens of arrests.

Arab Israelis have been protesting Israeli policies and actions in Jerusalem, specifically what they deem aggression against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Temple Mount compound. Clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians at the flashpoint holy site left hundreds wounded Monday.

Thousands demonstrated in Nazareth, Haifa, Shfaram, Segev Shalom and in smaller towns such as Eksal, Kafr Manda, and Nahaf. In Nazareth, some demonstrators shot fireworks; in Haifa, protesters burned trashcans.

According to police, demonstrators threw rocks, launched fireworks, and hurled bottles at the various demonstrations.

In Kafr Kanna, a Jewish Israeli man who entered the town was  “violently attacked” by some residents before others ushered him away.His car was damaged, the Kan public broadcaster reported, based on a video circulating on social media.

The Arab Israeli protests come as Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired massive barrages of rockets at Israel on Monday evening and into the night, including seven projectiles that were fired by Hamas toward Jerusalem, in a major escalation of violence from the enclave signaling the possible start of a wider conflict.

The attacks drew Israeli retaliatory airstrikes in Gaza, which killed at least 20 people, including nine minors, according to the Strip’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. The Israel Defense Forces said at least 11 of those killed were members of the Hamas terror group who had launched rockets at Israel.

Palestinian terror groups have tied the attacks to the unrest in Jerusalem connected to prayer on the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and the pending eviction of a number of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Aaron Boxerman and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report

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