An attack on two soldiers in Haifa Saturday by a group of Israeli Arabs was not, as originally believed, nationalistically motivated, Haifa Police said Sunday. Police now believe the assault was related to a neighborhood feud, according to Israel National News.
New testimony suggests the soldiers initially asked the group of young men to lower the Arabic music coming from their cars because it was loud. When the request was ignored, the soldiers, who were on weekend leave, allegedly threw stones at the group.
At that point, the group assaulted the soldiers, kicking and beating them with metal rods, knives, and rocks. Then, other young men joined the attackers, making them a group of 12 to 20.
Channel 2 News also reported that the attack was a case of mistaken identity — meaning a ‘tit-for-tat’ response to a previous incident in which an individual or group threw rocks at a Haifa Arab resident’s home. The suspects claim they thought they were the perpetrators.
There was a case where one Israeli-Arab living in Haifa had stones thrown at his home – and that this was in retaliation for that event (and for getting the police involved during that event)
The head of one victim was engraved with the words “you dog,” according to some media sources. Other news sites, including YNet News, reported that the Hebrew letters for “PLO” were etched into the victim’s head.
The victims were asked if they were Jewish.
“I felt they wanted to murder me,” one of the soldiers told YNet News. “At certain moments I felt my end was nearing.”
The violence ended when security guards from nearby Rambam Hospital arrived at the scene.
Six suspects connected to the attack have been arrested so far. They were remanded Sunday for five additional days.
The victims — one of whom is serving in the air force and the other in the navy — are being treated at Rambam Hospital.
Judge Zaid Falah of the Haifa Magistrate Court compared the incident to a lynch on Israeli soldiers in Ramallah 12 years ago. In that attack, two non-combat Israeli soldiers mistakenly entered Ramallah and were detained by the Palestinian Authority. When rumors circulated that the soldiers were being held there, a mob of over 1,000 Palestinian rioters stormed the building and mutilated and killed the soldiers. The killers then dragged the bodies to al-Manara square in central Ramallah, to which the crowd reportedly responded with cheers.
The suspects’ lawyer, Hamoodi Masari, said that comparing the attack to the Ramallah lynch was “sad” and “exaggerated,” Channel 2 News reported.