Police arrest 4 more Lehava anti-assimilation activists

Suspects accused of incitement to violence; 4 others summoned for questioning

Lehava head Benzi Gopstein is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem on December 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Lehava head Benzi Gopstein is brought to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court in Jerusalem on December 16, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Four anti-assimilation activists affiliated with the Lehava organization were arrested on suspicion of incitement to violence on Sunday, and four others were brought in for questioning.

The arrests came five days after the organization’s leader, Benzi Gopshtain, and 10 other activists were arrested as police began a crackdown on the right-wing organization.

The eight people held Sunday are residents of Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion, Beitar Illit, Netivot, and Herzliya.

“Eight suspects who belong to Lehava were arrested and detained for questioning on suspicion of offences involving incitement to carry out acts of violence and terror for racist motives,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said in a statement.

Police raided the offices of Lehava last Wednesday night, confiscating computers and other equipment in the wake of allegations that the extremist group was involved in an arson attack against an Arab-Jewish school.

The offices are located on Jaffa Road in the heart of downtown Jerusalem.

A legal representative for Lehava said that the offices were also used by the Otzma Yehudit party, a far-right faction planning to campaign for seats in the Knesset during the upcoming elections, Israel Radio reported.

The raid came following the arrest of Gopshtain on Tuesday amid suspicions that he and others in the organization had incited to violence and acts of terror.

Gopshtain and two others were released to house arrest on Friday, Samri told AFP, indicating that they were likely to be indicted “in the coming days.” The other seven were place on conditional release, she said.

The arrests came several weeks after an arson and graffiti attack, allegedly carried out by three Lehava members, against a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.

Police said in a statement that the arrests were preceded by a complex and extensive undercover investigation into the activities of Lehava, which works to prevent intermarriage and coexistence between Jews and members of other religions in Israel.

The group is known for holding rowdy protests and marches. In August, four people were arrested when the group held a large protest outside the Rishon Lezion wedding of an Arab man and a Jewish woman.

Last week, three Lehava members were formally charged in the arson and vandalism attack last month on Jerusalem’s Max Rayne Hand in Hand School school, after having confessed to committing the crime during questioning. Security officials said that the suspects, Yitzhak Gabai, 22, and brothers Shlomo and Nahman Twitto, aged 20 and 18 respectively, admitted to torching the Jewish-Arab school because of anti-assimilation ideology.

In a separate development, five Jewish youths — four of them minors — were picked up in a park in Jerusalem overnight carrying two commando knives and a screwdriver as they were collecting stones to attack Arabs, police said.

AFP contributed to this report.

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