Police arrested two suspects, an adult and a minor, on suspicion of painting hate slogans and vandalizing vehicles overnight in an Arab neighborhood of the northern city of Safed, Israel Police said in a statement Thursday.
In addition to slashing tires on vehicles, the suspects, both from Safed, spray-painted Hebrew slogans referencing an outpost neighborhood of the Yitzhar settlement in the West Bank whose residents have carried out violent attacks on Israeli troops.
Slogans included “Closed military zone,” “Only gentiles expel from the land,” and the outpost’s name, “Kumi Ori.”
Stars of David were also sprayed on some of the vehicles.
Residents of the Akbara neighborhood who found the damage reported it to police.
“Israel police takes a serious view of the incident and will do everything it can to bring the culprits to justice,” police said in the statement.
The Honenu legal aid organization claimed in a statement that police arrested the 17-year-old without a warrant and beat the boy’s father, knocking him over after storming into the ultra-Orthodox family’s home at 6 a.m.
Honenu said police did allow the suspect’s parents to be present during his questioning, in violation of youth laws.
Hate crime attacks in Arab Israeli towns have been rare compared to attacks that regularly target Palestinian villages in the West Bank, where suspects are almost never apprehended by police. In July a suspected hate crime attack in the Arab Israeli town of Jisr az-Zarqa was also linked to Yitzhar.
Last week the IDF extended an order sealing off the Kumi Ori outpost of Yitzhar to non-residents. Within days there were two apparent hate crime attacks on Palestinian villages in the area of Yitzhar. Dozens of vehicles had windows smashed or tires slashed and the suspects graffitied Hebrew slogans referencing the Kumi Ori outpost.
A recent increase in violence has placed Yitzhar and the surrounding outposts in the center of a media storm.
Residents said tensions between them and security forces began to rise earlier this month when the head of Central Command signed off on an administrative order barring a Kumi Ori resident from the West Bank. A defense official said the 21-year-old man has been involved in violence against soldiers and Palestinians. He denies the claim.
After Yitzhar’s leadership subsequently cut off ties with the IDF’s top brass, security forces arrested two residents of Kumi Ori — one for setting a Palestinian field on fire and another for threatening an army brigade commander. One of the suspects claimed to have been assaulted by the arresting officer.
Last week security forces reported coming under attack while patrolling the area. One officer was lightly injured in an incident that involved 30 young far-right activists known as hilltop youth, who hurled stones at the soldiers and slashed the tires of their jeep.
Jacob Magid contributed to this report.
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