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Jewish man given 5-year sentence for assaulting Arab during 2021 Gaza war

According to indictment, Yaakov Atenau and his friends attacked and injured Ghassan Yahya in the parking lot of a Herzliya mosque

File: Police are seen in Lod during ethnic rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel, May 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
File: Police are seen in Lod during ethnic rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel, May 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

A Jewish Israeli man was sentenced on Monday to five years in prison for taking part in the brutal mob assault of an Arab man in Herzliya during last May’s fighting in Gaza.

The Tel Aviv District Court also ordered Yaakov Atenau, who was convicted of intentional and racially motivated vehicular damage and bodily assault with aggravating intent, to pay NIS 5,000 in compensation.

According to the indictment, on the night of the attack on May 12, 2021, Atenau and his friends were in Bat Yam, where a violent demonstration of Jewish extremists was taking place. Jewish-Arab ethnically motivated violence was tearing through the country at the time, particularly in mixed cities, against the backdrop of the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

Atenau and his friends then drove from Bat Yam to the Sidna Ali Mosque in nearby Herzliya. They headed out with equipment for an assault, including batons, hammers, knives and gasoline. The group of Jewish extremists numbered roughly 15.

Upon arrival at the mosque parking lot, they identified Ghassan Haj Yahya, an Arab Israeli resident of Taibe, who was eating the Ramadan fast-breaking meal in his car. The suspects waited for a parked police car to drive away before converging on Yahya’s vehicle, shouting “Arab!” the indictment said.

They then began pelting and hitting him with stones, spraying his face with pepper spray and stabbing him in the shoulder.

Yahya required hospitalization due to the injuries sustained in the attack.

Five other people were indicted for their alleged involvement in the incident.

Hundreds of indictments have been filed against mostly Arabs, but some Jews as well, over the days of rioting in which mobs on each side attacked members of the opposite ethnicity, in a rash of violence the likes of which hadn’t been seen in decades. The tensions were partially fueled by Israel’s conflict with Gaza-based terrorists and violent pro-Palestinian protests in Jerusalem.

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