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Over 1,550 suspects arrested in Jewish-Arab rioting

Israel Police says 150 indictments have been filed, thousands of officers involved in operation to catch perpetrators

Israeli police seen on the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod, where synagogues and cars were torched as well as shops damaged, as Arab residents rioted in the city on May 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)
Israeli police seen on the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod, where synagogues and cars were torched as well as shops damaged, as Arab residents rioted in the city on May 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Israel Police said Monday that over 1,550 people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the violent clashes between Jews and Arabs earlier this month.

The sweeping operation, involving thousands of police and Border Police officers, arrested 85 suspects on Monday, among them 38 who are suspected of participating in rioting in East Jerusalem.

So far 150 indictments have been filed, police said in a statement.

Charges have included assaulting police officers in aggravated circumstances, endangering human life on a public thoroughfare, participating in riots, throwing rocks, disorderly conduct in a public place, arson, and interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duties.

The drive, dubbed by the force Operation Law and Order, will see officers “in broad deployment against the rioters, the criminals, and anyone who was involved in the disturbances of the peace to bring them to justice,” police said.

A police spokesman said that 70 percent of those arrested were Arab and 30% were Jewish, The New York Times reported.

“The majority of incidents that took place were carried out by Arab Israelis who took to the streets and attacked Jewish civilians and police officers,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

The Ynet news site reported Monday that the police operation’s aim is also to “settle the score” with criminal gangs operating in Arab communities. The operation was approved after a consultation between Public Security Minister Amir Ohana and Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai.

On Monday, heads of Arab municipalities met with Shabtai and complained that police were only taking action against violent crime in the Arab community because it had become a threat to the Jewish community, Haaretz reported.

Criticism came as well from MK Aida Touma-Sliman, of the predominantly Arab Joint List party, who lamented that police have for years ignored violent crime in Arab towns and cities.

“All of a sudden the police now wake up and want to launch an operation for law and order,” Touma-Silman said, according to Haaretz. “Where were they when crime was running rampant in the Arab community? It seems that when it is related to saving Arab lives the police don’t move.”

The arrests came as on Monday three Jews were indicted on terrorism charges for an attack on an Arab man in the coastal city of Bat Yam earlier this month that was caught on live television.

Screen capture from video of a crowd of Jewish protetors pulling an Arab man from his vehicle in Bet Yam, May 21, 2021. (Twitter)

Saeed Mousa was seriously injured in the May 12 attack, which came amid escalating ethnic tensions between Jews and Arabs inside Israeli cities alongside the armed conflict with Gaza terror groups.

Netanel Binyamin, 25, Lahav Ohanina, 18, and a 16-year-old minor whose name was not released were charged in Tel Aviv District Court with aggravated intentional assault, intentional sabotage of a vehicle and racially motivated theft, public disturbance causing racially motivated damage, incitement to terrorism and incitement to racism. Binyamin was also charged with attempted murder.

A fourth suspect in the case, Yaakov Cohen, 32, a resident of the central region of the country, was arrested over the weekend. However, dozens of others who were filmed taking part in the attack on Mousa have not been charged or arrested.

A source told Haaretz that police were proceeding with caution in the case.

“We aren’t rushing to make arrests without enough evidence,” the source said. “We need to see with whom these people spoke beforehand, to see if they planned it or were from the street.”

According to the report, police were likely to eventually ask the public to assist in identifying suspects.

Some have already been identified, though not questioned.

The violent clashes between the two communities has largely faded away, although simmering tensions remain in some areas.

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