Soldier viciously beaten in Jaffa, synagogue burned in Lod, as rioting deepens

Numerous reports of shootings, other acts of violence in Jewish-Arab cities throughout country; Gantz extends emergency order in Lod, epicenter of escalating unrest

Israeli special forces gather in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod on May 13, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Israeli special forces gather in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod on May 13, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Fresh violence erupted Thursday evening in several Jewish-Arab cities, a night after some of the worst internal unrest in years, as intense fighting also continued between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip.

Two civilians and a policeman were reported to have been shot by Arab assailants in Lod and Ramle.

In Jaffa, a 19-year-old soldier was in serious condition after being beaten, and was suffering from a skull fracture and a cerebral hemorrhage, Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv said, after he drove himself there.

In Lod, a central city with Jewish and Arab populations that has become an epicenter of the ethnic violence gripping the country, a Jewish paramedic was lightly wounded after being shot. Reports later said a second Jewish man was shot in the city, after an overnight curfew took effect at 8 p.m. for a second night in a row.

Arab rioters also torched a synagogue, the fifth in the city to be set alight in the recent violence, according to Channel 12 news.

Kan news posted video from the city of what it said were armed citizens accompanying officers to the site of clashes.

Along with the curfew, which ends at 3 a.m., police began barring non-residents of Lod from entering the city as of 5 p.m.

Amid the continued violence in the city, Defense Minister Benny Gantz extended the state of emergency there by 48 hours, a move his office said came at the request of police.

In nearby Ramle, a police officer was shot and wounded, according to Channel 12 news. There was no immediate word on his condition. He was reportedly being treated at the scene.

Meanwhile, footage from southern Tel Aviv showed journalists from Kan being attacked and beaten by several far-right rioters. Cameraman Roland Novitzky was beaten and had his camera taken away, before being taken to the hospital. Reporter Yoav Zehavi, who was with him, said they filed a police complaint.

Two suspects were arrested over the assault.

Far-right activists were also organizing on social media to attack Arabs in Jerusalem, according to the Haaretz daily.

In other acts of violence, a Jewish family was attacked by Arab rioters in Umm al-Fahm after entering the Arab city by accident, according to Hebrew media reports.

Police rescued the couple and three young children, with the help of local civilians. The family all sustained mild injuries.

Municipal officials issued a strong condemnation of the attack, with Mayor Samir Mahamid later calling the father and expressing “his shock and revulsion at the incident.”

An 8-year-old Jewish girl was wounded after being hit in the head by a rock thrown at a car she was traveling in near Beersheba, medics said. The girl sustained moderate injuries and was taken to Soroka Hospital for further treatment. The stone-throwers are believed to have been from a nearby Bedouin village.

In Haifa, eight Arabs were arrested on suspicion of throwing rocks at Jews.

A pro-peace protest against the violence was held in Jerusalem and a similar rally took place outside the city, near the town of Abu Ghosh.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Lod, where he said he would approve far-reaching measures to quell the violence seen across Israel, including deploying military forces.

His comments contradicted those of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who has said he does not agree to using the military for policing operations.

Meeting with Border Police officers sent to the city, Netanyahu said: “We have no bigger threat now than these pogroms, and we have no choice but to restore law and order via determined use of force.”

Despite his call for Israel Defense Forces troops to be deployed, it is unlikely that Netanyahu has authority to approve such action independently.

Apparently siding with Gantz, Shabtai was quoted by Hebrew media following Netanyahu’s comments as telling associates that he objects to deploying the army.

Netanyahu also proposed the use of administrative detention of rioters, a controversial measure commonly deployed against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Administrative detention enables authorities to detain people for extended periods of time without leveling formal charges against them, in a practice decried by critics as undemocratic and abusive, but defended by the security establishment as a necessary measure in cases where revealing the evidence would harm national security.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting Border Police officers in the central Israeli city of Lod, May 13, 2021.(Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Gantz on Thursday ordered a major call-up of Border Police reservists to bolster officers working to contain the unrest, but specifically ruled out deploying troops at this time.

Later Thursday, Gantz, who also serves as justice minister, was reported to have agreed with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and other senior officials that top priority would be given to investigating the violence that is currently taking place across the country.

Despite two previous days of ever-expanding violence, and a call-up of reinforcements for both police and Border Police, law enforcement once again Thursday seemed unequipped to handle the scope of the chaos, with many scenes of violence going ahead.

Violence continued Thursday morning with a Jewish man, 34, stabbed near a market in Lod, a city with Jewish and Arab populations that has become an epicenter of the ethnic violence gripping the country. The man, who was moderately injured, was on his way to prayers and was attacked near a mosque in the city, according to Hebrew media reports.

An Arab woman in the city was also seriously injured by a rock thrown at her head. She was pregnant and gave birth to a healthy baby at the hospital after the attack, according to reports.

Incidents were also reported in the south, the Jewish-Arab city of Acre in north and in the Arab town of Kfar Qasim, two police patrol cars were torched.

Police offers seen on the streets of the central Israeli city of Lod after Arab rioters torched cars and burned synagogues, on May 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Five people were arrested in Jerusalem on suspicion of attacking a Jewish man near the Damascus Gate to the Old City, police said. In a video of the incident, several youths were seen running up behind an ultra-Orthodox man, knocking him to the floor and trampling on him before running off. The man required medical treatment, police said.

Commenting Thursday on the previous night’s violence, in which more than 400 people were arrested, Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said most of those arrested last night were Arab Israelis, not Jewish Israelis.

“We arrested Jewish people, but many fewer, because the majority of disturbances were conducted by Israeli Arabs,” Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld also claimed there was a difference between the Jewish mobs and the Arab mobs.

“There have been certain Jewish groups and Jewish individuals who have said ‘if necessary, we will protect ourselves.’ There have been a number of instances in which they took the law into their own hands…but that is very different than those thousands who sought to kill as many people as possible,” Rosenfeld said.

Violence between the Jewish and Arab communities spiraled from confrontations in Jerusalem surrounding the month-long Muslim month of Ramadan and clashes on the Temple Mount, and came to a head as Israel engaged in an escalating clash with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

President Reuven Rivlin, who celebrated a Ramadan iftar meal just weeks ago, on Wednesday condemned what he termed a “pogrom” by a “bloodthirsty Arab mob.” As Jewish mobs joined the fray, he later called on all sides to “stop this madness.”

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