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Police arrest two more suspects over firebombing of Jewish home in Sheikh Jarrah

Two being questioned by Shin Bet, joining two others arrested earlier in connection with alleged attack in East Jerusalem neighborhood that sparked days of clashes

Israeli police close off a street following clashes between Palestinians and Israeli Jews during a visit by far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir to East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on February 13, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli police close off a street following clashes between Palestinians and Israeli Jews during a visit by far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir to East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood on February 13, 2022. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Two suspects were arrested in connection with the alleged firebombing of a Jewish home in the contested East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah last week, police said Thursday.

The suspects join two others arrested earlier this week over the alleged arson attack, which touched off a fresh round of violence in the neighborhood that Israeli leaders have warned could snowball into a larger regional conflagration.

“Following a covert operation, two additional suspects believed to be involved in the serious incident were arrested last night in East Jerusalem,” police said in a statement.

The suspects, both in their 20s, were being questioned by the Shin Bet following their arrest. Authorities did not say where they were from.

Police are expected to ask the court to deny bail until the investigation is complete.

Two other suspects were arrested earlier this week, with officers finding eight Molotov cocktails, gloves and a knit cap while searching the home of one of the suspects.

This undated handout photo released by the Israel Police on February 14, 2022, shows Molotov cocktails found in the home a suspect in the firebombing of a Jewish house in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. (Israel Police)

During clashes between Arab and Jewish residents last Friday, a firebomb was allegedly thrown at a Jewish family home in Sheikh Jarrah, which has been a locus of tensions due to a push by right-wing Israelis to evict Palestinians from homes they claim belonged to Jewish families before 1948.

No injuries were reported in the fire. However, the house was badly damaged and police said an officer was lightly hurt from smoke inhalation after entering the home.

Citing initial findings from the scene that raised suspicion of arson, police said the Jerusalem district commander had ordered a “substantial” increase in police presence in Sheikh Jarrah, also known as the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood, including of undercover officers and special forces.

An Arab resident of Sheikh Jarrah and a neighbor of the Jewish family told Hebrew-language news site Ynet that “it didn’t seem like [the suspects] wanted to scare” the Jewish family,” but “to actually burn them alive.”

Jewish residents of the neighborhood and their supporters, including far-right Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir, accuse the police of failing to properly secure the neighborhood.

On Sunday, Ben-Gvir set up a makeshift office — a table under an awning — in Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday, sparking more violent clashes between Israeli and Palestinians.

In May, the pending evictions of several Palestinian families from the neighborhood helped fuel clashes in Jerusalem that kicked off an 11-day conflict between Israel and the Gaza-ruling Hamas terror group, as well as deadly bouts of street violence between Arabs and Jews inside Israel.

Emanuel Fabian and Tal Schneider contributed to this report.

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