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Police probe anti-Arab vandalism, boost patrols as tensions swirl

Cars damaged in Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa; security forces bolster presence in major cities and West Bank; relative of Palestinian killed Monday night says incident was nationalist

Israeli soldiers seen placing large cement blocks at a bus stop near the Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut on November 11, 2014. (Photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers seen placing large cement blocks at a bus stop near the Jewish settlement of Alon Shvut on November 11, 2014. (Photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Police said Tuesday they are investigating a suspected “price tag” hate-crime attack in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, hours after an Arab cab driver was attacked by Jewish extremists in the wake of two terror attacks a day earlier.

At the same time, police and security forces fanned out in major cities and the West Bank in a bid to restore quiet after several days of unrest and a wave of violent attacks.

Jerusalem residents reported Tuesday morning that vandals had damaged several cars and spray-painted “No Arabs, no cars” on the sidewalk nearby in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa.

The graffiti was in reference to several recent attacks in which Palestinian drivers plowed their vehicles into crowds of people.

Anger has spread among Israelis in the wake of a spike in terror attacks over the last several weeks, including two separate stabbing incidents on Monday.

A protest late Monday night against the spate of attacks turned violent, with demonstrators blocking a road at in central Jerusalem, and an Arab taxi driver being attacked by rock throwers.

Police said Tuesday they had arrested four 13-year-old boys who admitted to throwing the rocks at the taxi driver.

The protesters, which seemed to number a dozen or so people as seen in a video of the incident, staged an impromptu demonstration calling for government action after IDF soldier Almog Shiloni and 26-year-old Dalia Lemkus were killed in separate terror attacks during the day.

Chants such as “No Arabs, no terror attacks!” were heard and protesters carried signs with anti-Arab slogans.

The stabbings came as a third straight day of violent protests rocked a number of Arab towns in the wake of the police shooting and killing a man in Kafr Kanna on Saturday.

A Hamas official praised the killing of Shiloni, saying it was in response to the Kafr Kanna shooting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered police to beef up presence across the country and in the West Bank after the stabbings.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that in response to the two deadly attacks Monday, several police units had been mobilized in major Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and were being deployed “in public places.”

The Israeli military said it sent reinforcements to the West Bank, following what it called “new security assessments.”

Concrete barriers were also set up at the West Bank bus stop where one of the stabbing attacks occurred, and extra troops were dispatched to bus stops and hitchhiking posts in the area.

Hundreds of soldiers doing training in the Golan Heights were moved to the West Bank to help bolster patrols, Israeli news site Ynet reported Tuesday.

Tensions in Israel have run high since the summer, with waves of violence centered in Jerusalem.

The US on Monday condemned the attacks, and called for the sides to work for calm.

“It is absolutely critical that parties take every possible measure to protect civilians and de-escalate tensions,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Psaki also said the US was seeking Israeli clarifications over the Kafr Kanna shooting, in which Kheir Hamdan was killed by police after attacking a cruiser with a knife.

The shooting came amid sky-high tensions across the country spawned by conflicting claims to the Temple Mount and the aftermath of this summer’s bloody Gaza war.

Also Monday night, a Palestinian man was shot dead outside the Arab town of Zemer in the Sharon region close to the seam line, according to preliminary reports.

The man, a 36-year-old Nablus resident, was reportedly shot in an open field adjacent to the town. A 16-year-old Palestinian teenager was wounded in the incident.

Police said the shooting was criminally related, but a relative said the killing was nationalistically motivated, Ynet reported.

Protesters throwing rocks towards Israeli Border Policemen at the entrance to Kafr Kanna on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
Protesters throwing rocks towards Israeli Border Policemen at the entrance to Kafr Kanna on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch is reportedly looking into the possibility of calling up reserves from the Border Police gendarme force to help quell the unrest, according to Channel 2 news.

As a last resort, officials may consider a closure on the West Bank if the situation deteriorates, the channel reported.

Aharonovitch, who convened a security meeting Monday night, also decided to beef up police presence across the country and ordered stepped-up arrest operations against Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives.

A statement from the police called on residents to remain alert and report suspicious activity.

AP contributed to this report.

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