Two Arab Israeli men suspected of violently assaulting a rabbi in Jaffa earlier this week were released under house arrest, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday.
The two men, both in their 30s, were arrested over the beating of Rabbi Eliyahu Mali, who runs the Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in the mixed Jewish-Arab district of Tel Aviv.
The judge also ruled that the “source of the conflict was not racist,” according to Channel 12.
After several days of investigation, police asked the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court to extend the suspects’ detention for another five days, which Judge Or Mammon denied, the network said.
“As for the racist motive, the investigation has progressed, and in my opinion, this suspicion has not grown, and it is possible to determine that this claim has actually weakened significantly,” Mammon said. The court placed the suspects under house arrest until Sunday under restrictive conditions, Channel 12 said.
Earlier this week, police accused the two of a nationalistically motivated assault, though the suspects denied the attack was driven by hate motives in their initial investigation.
Since the assault, which was documented, rival protests have erupted in Jaffa, leading to the arrest of three Arab men on Monday.
Predominantly religious Jews began protesting near the site of the attack Sunday evening, denouncing violence against Jews in the city. They were met by counter-protest of local Arab Israelis who formed across the street, chanting “Settlers, go home.”
Cops formed a human barrier between the two protests, and came under attack from rocks and fireworks hurled in their direction, police said in a statement, adding that two police officers suffered light injuries.
The assault on Mali took place after he and a colleague went to a building in Jaffa to view the property. The two were surrounded by Arab residents of the area, who began to yell at them and ordered them to leave. When they refused and began filming the incident, the suspects began beating Mali and his colleague, according to Channel 12.
Photos posted online showed the rabbi, in his 60s, being kicked to the ground.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the “violent attack” and urged law enforcement to swiftly bring the assailants to justice.
Right-wing lawmakers also strongly condemned the attack, calling it anti-Semitic.
Jaffa, which has been incorporated into Tel Aviv, is traditionally Arab, but recent years have seen many Jewish residents move in, drawn by new luxury housing developments. The gentrification — along with the presence of the yeshiva and the expansion of its community into Arab areas — has fueled tensions in the city.
Mali is a former senior rabbi at the ultra-nationalist Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, which seeks to populate the Old City and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods with Jewish residents by purchasing properties from Arabs.
Speaking to reporters as the Monday protest dispersed, local imam Bilal Dacha lambasted police conduct in the city, noting how quickly officers had acted to arrest the suspects in Mali’s beating while murder cases involving Arab residents remain unsolved.
“Dozens of people have been murdered and not a single person has been arrested. It’s a disgrace!” he shouted.