Argentine police arrested two suspects on Saturday in the brutal assault last month against the country’s chief rabbi, Gabriel Davidovich.
Davidovich was beaten and seriously injured by assailants who broke into his Buenos Aires home in the middle of the night on February 25, while he and his wife were there.
The rabbi was hospitalized with serious injuries, including nine broken ribs and a punctured lung. The intruders, who also stole valuables and money from the home, reportedly shouted: “We know you are the rabbi of the Jewish community” during the attack.
Police raided the suspects’ homes after an intensive investigation that included examining extensive security camera footage, according to reports.
During the arrest raid, police found a vehicle used by the assailants parked outside one of the suspects’ homes, as well as clothes in one of the homes that were believed to have been used during the attack.
The two were identified as the heads of a local gang that committed multiple home invasions in the area. The attack on the chief rabbi’s home was well-planned and the attackers knew the identity of the residents living there, according to police.
As many as seven individuals took part in the attack, and stole some 200,000 Argentine pesos (roughly $5,000) in cash, as well as valuable jewelry and a Haredi-style black hat.
It was not clear on Sunday if the arrests meant police were investigating the case as a hate crime, or viewed it as a standard home invasion and assault investigation.
Officials in the Argentine Jewish community have argued that the assailants specifically targeted the rabbi, and would not have beaten him so badly if that wasn’t their original intent.
Israeli leaders condemned the attack, linking the “vicious” assault to the recent wave of anti-Semitic incidents in the West.
AMIA, Argentina’s umbrella Jewish group, said the attackers’ comments identifying the chief rabbi were cause for “alarm,” while its president, Jorge Knoblovits, asserted the robbery was a pretext for “an anti-Semitic act.”
The La Nacion newspaper said earlier this month that police were investigating whether the assault was an act of revenge for a marriage annulled by the rabbi a few years prior.
The Hebrew-language Haredi news site Kikar Hashabbat reported that Davidovich received death threats in the wake of the marriage annulment.
The attack targeting Davidovich followed the vandalism of nine gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in the Argentine province of San Luis the previous weekend.