'They wanted to kill me and kept stating that I was an Arab'

Jewish suspect indicted over 2 months after mob assault of Arab man

Petah Tikva resident, 22, among several Jews who allegedly waited in Herzilya mosque’s parking lot until cop car drove away before beating and stabbing Ghassan Yahya

Police are seen in Lod during ethnic rioting in the mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel, May 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
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 suspect in the brutal mob assault of an Arab man in Herzliya in May was apprehended and charged this week after managing to evade police for over two months.

The indictment filed against 22-year-old Shaked Siboni at the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday included a terror charge, as well as charges of aggravated assault and intentional sabotage of a vehicle.

According to the charge sheet, on the night of the attack on May 12 Siboni 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.

Siboni and his friends allegedly decided to drive from Bat Yam to the Sidna Ali Mosque in nearby Herzliya. They headed out with equipment for an assault, such as 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.

Yahya recalled the incident to the Ynet news site, saying he “saw blood in their eyes. They were looking for someone to murder no matter if I did anything or not.”

A man beats a man lying prone on the ground in Bat Yam, amid interethnic violence across Israel, May 12, 2021. (Kan TV Screenshot)

“They sprayed me with pepper spray, tried to pull me out of the car, and when they couldn’t, they stabbed me with a knife,” he said.

“I was sure I was a dead man. The attackers broke the car window… They wanted to murder me and kept stating that I was an Arab. I was fearful and in shock.”

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

Siboni’s identity had been known to police as other suspects in the assault had given him up during interrogation. But he managed to evade police attempts to locate him, which included dozens of calls to his family and visits to his home and workplace.

State prosecutors requested that he be remanded until the end of legal proceedings against him. Seven other Jewish suspects were arrested along with Siboni and three of them have been indicted.

Police officers clash with Arab Israeli rioters in Ramle in central Israel, on May 10, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Siboni’s attorney Assaf Gonen said in a statement, “I can already say that the picture the prosecution is trying to present [of my client] in the indictment is lightyears away from reality.”

Also on Thursday, an indictment was filed against five Arab Israeli residents of Lod, who were charged with a series of criminal offenses over their alleged participation in violent riots throughout the mixed city during the May Gaza war.

The suspects are either relatives or close friends of Moussa Hassouna, who was killed, allegedly by Jews, during the early days of the ethnic violence that tore through the country that month.

Police arrested four Jewish suspects after the shooting that killed Hassouna, but they argued they acted in self-defense and that Hassouna had been part of a mob that attacked them. The four Jewish suspects were subsequently released on bail and have yet to be charged.

Hundreds of indictments have been filed against mostly Arabs, but some Jews as well, over 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 the conflict with Gaza-based terrorists and violent pro-Palestinian protests in Jerusalem.

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