The Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday released to house arrest the central suspect in a violent hate crime targeting a group of Arab Israelis in the northern city of Haifa last month.
Alexei Katz’s remand had been extended earlier this week after the victims identified him in a police lineup. The judge said the investigation into the case was still ongoing. So far four suspects have been arrested and all have been released.
A second suspect, Oleg Gershkovovich, reportedly told police he has an alibi for the time of the attack. He was also released to house arrest, but according to Hadashot TV news, there is still “reasonable suspicion” of his involvement.
The three victims, Muhammad Yusifin, Muatasim Ayoub and Mawd Ayoub, a doctor and two nurses from the northern town of Shfaram, filed a complaint with police last month, telling investigators they were relaxing on the beach the night before, when they were approached by a man who asked them if they were Arabs.
After replying that they were, the suspect allegedly left and came back with some nine other people, who proceeded to attack the three beach-goers with knives and metal bars.
Two passersby intervened and stopped the attack. All three Arab men were hospitalized for their injuries.
One of the victims described the attack as unprovoked and nationalistically motivated.
“They came over with knives, with metal bars. They just started beating us for no reason,” one of the victims, whose name was withheld, told Hadashot on Saturday. “They planned to kill us, all three of us.”
“This was a nationalistic attack,” he added.
“Not all people are bad like these guys were. The people who helped us were these two Jews who got the group to get away,” he said. “Not all the people are the same, and we are also part of the nation of Israel.”
The three victims were taken to hospital to receive medical attention for their injuries.
Another victim said it was the first time he had encountered such violence. “How can someone ask someone what they are and then beat them?” he said. “Are we not allowed to be here because we’re Arabs? This is a public place and all Israelis are allowed. I was born here in Haifa.”
The incident was condemned by Jewish and Arab lawmakers as well as by President Reuven Rivlin. A solidarity event was held in Shfaram.
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