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Far-right activists trap Palestinian gas station workers during Jerusalem riot

Video footage shows Lehava members threatening Arabs with pepper spray, physical assault, forcing them to barricade themselves in store

Screen capture from video of a member of the Jewish far-right Lehava group attacking a gas station store as Arab workers hide inside, November 6, 2021. (Channel 13 News)
Screen capture from video of a member of the Jewish far-right Lehava group attacking a gas station store as Arab workers hide inside, November 6, 2021. (Channel 13 News)

Members of the Jewish far-right Lehava group threatened Palestinian workers at a Jerusalem gas station with physical violence, forcing the employees to barricade themselves in the station’s store.

The incident, footage of which was aired by Channel 13 Sunday, happened Saturday at the entrance to the capital and involved protesters over the case of Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old who was killed in a car crash last year while fleeing from police, allegedly after throwing rocks at Palestinians.

During violent clashes with police who were trying to clear roads blocked by the demonstrators, some of the protesters, a number of whom could be seen wearing shirts with the Lehava logo, went to one of the two gas stations located nearby.

Three East Jerusalem Palestinians working at one of the stations were forced to barricade themselves in the store as the Lehava members banged on the windows, swore at them, and gestured their intention to physically assault them, including threatening them with pepper spray.

Police eventually arrived and chased away the protesters, who appeared to be youths. However, an hour later they returned and again tormented the gas station workers, according to Channel 13.

In total 21 people were arrested during the clashes with police in the main demonstration at the Chords Bridge, which spans the entrance to Jerusalem. Among them was a young woman seen banging on the window of the gas station store while holding pepper spray, the report said.

Four police officers were injured as demonstrators hurled bottles and stones and used pepper spray against them, according to the Israel Police. Two police cars were damaged.

Sandak’s death has sparked clashes between police and protesters over the past year, with the protesters claiming police were responsible for his death and demanding legal action.

Israel Police clash with demonstrators during a protest following the death of Ahuvia Sandak last year, at the entrance to Jerusalem, November 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A similar protest was held Friday at the same location. During that protest, demonstrators hurled rocks and other objects at responding officers, smashed a police vehicle’s windows and injured at least one officer. Police forcibly cleared the demonstrators from the intersection at the entrance to the city. At least 10 protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct and for assaulting police officers, including Sandak’s fiancée, Shalhevet Goldstein, according to Hebrew media reports.

Sandak, a resident of the Bat Ayin settlement, was fleeing Border Police in a car with three other youths on December 21, 2020, when the car flipped over, killing him. According to police, Sandak’s group fled from police before losing control of their vehicle. Sandak’s defenders view his death as a police killing; they allege that the police car hit his vehicle from behind, causing it to run off the road.

The far-right legal aid organization Honenu, which is representing those detained, said that police used excessive force, including by firing a water cannon at a girl who was protesting on the street on Friday.

The racist, homophobic Lehava organization and its leader, Benzi Gopstein, were recently revealed to be on a Facebook blacklist of entities banned by the social media giant.

Lehava opposes intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews, as well as LGBT rights, and tries to stifle any public activity by non-Jews in Israel, including coexistence events. There have been a number of efforts in Israel, including ongoing attempts, to have Lehava outlawed as a terrorist organization.

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