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Clashes break out at Jaffa protests following assault on yeshiva rabbi

3 Arab Israeli men arrested by police after fireworks and rocks launched at forces separating rival demonstrations; 2 officers injured

Clashes between Arab Israeli protesters and police in Jaffa, April 18, 2021. (Screen capture: Ynet)
Clashes between Arab Israeli protesters and police in Jaffa, April 18, 2021. (Screen capture: Ynet)

Three Arab Israeli men were arrested Sunday night, police said, as clashes broke out in Jaffa at rival protests following a violent assault on a yeshiva head who lives in the mixed Jewish-Arab district of Tel Aviv.

Rabbi Eliyahu Mali was violently attacked Sunday morning in an apparent hate crime while seeking to purchase an apartment to house his Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva. Two suspects were later arrested.

In response to the incident, a protest of predominantly religious Jews took place near the site of the attack Sunday evening, denouncing violence against Jews in the city.

At the same time, a counter-protest of local Arab Israelis formed across the street from the Jewish protest, chanting “Settlers, go home.”

With cops forming a human barrier between the two protests, they came under attack from rocks and fireworks hurled in their direction, police said in a statement.

Clashes between Arab Israeli protesters and police in Jaffa, April 18, 2021. (Screen capture: Ynet)

Footage of the incident showed the fireworks coming from the direction of the Arab Israeli protest.

Two police officers suffered light injuries, police said.

In the incident early Sunday, Mali and his colleague were assaulted as they went to a building in Jaffa to view the property. The two were surrounded by Arab residents of the area, who began to yell at them and order them to leave. When they refused and began filming the incident, the suspects began beating Mali and his colleague.

Photos posted online showed the rabbi, in his sixties, being kicked to the ground.

Two residents of Jaffa filmed beating Rabbi Eliyahu Mali on April 18, 2021. (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the “violent attack” and urged law enforcement to swiftly bring the assailants to justice.

Right-wing lawmakers also strongly condemned the attack, calling it anti-Semitic.

“The State of Israel is not a shtetl in which Jews can be harmed,” Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett tweeted, referring to the Jewish hamlets of Eastern Europe. “The severe and overt violence against Rabbi Eliyahu Mali, the head of the hesder yeshiva in Jaffa, is a… national disgrace.”

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz described the incident as “chilling” and urged police to bring the attackers to justice.

Jaffa, which has now been incorporated into Tel Aviv, is traditionally Arab, but recent years have seen many Jewish residents move in, drawn by new luxury housing developments. This gentrification has fueled tensions in the city.

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