A Palestinian flag was put up early Wednesday outside the municipality building in the city of Petah Tikva in central Israel, with vandals also setting fire to a nearby garbage dumpster and recycling bins, the municipality said in a statement.
The incident was reported to authorities around 2 a.m., when neighbors noticed the smoke and flames from a garbage bin, a bottle recycling bin and a cardboard recycling bin.
Firefighters put out the blaze, and later authorities discovered that the Israeli flag that is normally placed outside the municipality building was removed and replaced by a makeshift Palestinian flag.
It wasn’t immediately clear who was behind the actions or what they had intended to protest.
Petah Tikva Mayor Rami Greenberg said the bins that were set on fire were near his parked car.
“Criminal acts and thuggery by petty, cowardly people, no matter their intention — be it extreme left activists, infiltrators or other criminals — won’t deter us from taking action for the benefit of Petah Tikva residents, and them only,” he said in a statement.
“That includes determined action against those who try to harm the public interest.”
Greenberg’s mention of “infiltrators” was an apparent reference to Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers, who have been the subject of some recent controversies involving the mayor.
In February, Greenberg asked residents to call a hotline to report any asylum seekers they saw in order to have them removed from the city.
In July, a lawsuit was filed against the municipality, saying it had prevented dozens of Eritrean asylum seekers from enrolling their children in school.
Petah Tikva, a city of some 233,000 residents, is about 10 kilometers (6.5 miles) east of Tel Aviv.