Israel vows ‘zero tolerance for those who take law into own hands’
Following spread of riots to Arab towns, public security minister says justice will be served but urges police restraint due to delicate situation
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Saturday that there would be zero tolerance for people who decided to take the law into their own hands, following violent clashes in Arab Israeli towns in the north and center of the country on Friday and Saturday.
Aharonovitch said police would not allow violent disturbances to go unanswered and promised that justice would be served to “troublemakers.”
He also urged police to act responsibly and with restraint due to the delicate situation since the discovery on Monday of the bodies of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped on June 12, and especially the discovery of the body of a Palestinian teenager in a Jerusalem forest two days later in what is increasingly believed to have been a reprisal attack.
A preliminary autopsy finding revealed that Muhammed Abu Khdeir, 16, was still alive when he was set on fire. His funeral on Friday was attended by thousands and preceded and followed violent clashes with security forces in East Jerusalem which later spread to Israeli Arab towns, including Kalanswa, Tira, Taibe and Baqa al-Gharbiya
Aharonovitch was set to meet with police commanders in Taibe and Tira later Saturday.
Earlier Saturday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said that he expected the Israeli justice system to deal harshly with the Arab Israeli protesters arrested overnight Friday-Saturday following clashes with police.
Liberman said a “clear message” must be sent to “those who enjoy Israeli citizenship but behave like [Palestinian] terrorists.”
“These incidents prove once again that the place of these people is not Israel and until then, their rightful place is in jail,” he wrote in a Facebook message.
Police arrested 31 people in connection with the rioting overnight Friday-Saturday in which hundreds of Arab Israelis burned tires and clashed with security forces in protest of the death of the Palestinian teenager. Police said more arrests were expected Saturday and that reinforcements were called up should additional rioting take place later in the day.
In Kalanswa, east of Netanya and just inside Israel from the pre-1967 West Bank lines, a 20-year-old motorcycle rider was attacked by demonstrators Saturday morning while driving along the road into the town. He was hospitalized in moderate condition at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.
The incident followed several attacks on Jewish drivers by masked men on road 5614 into and out of Kalanswa, which was blocked due to burning tires overnight.
The masked men began asking drivers stuck on the road if they were Jewish. Two of the drivers who answered back in Hebrew were dragged from their cars and beaten. One of them managed to get back in his car and drive away while the other escaped on foot. His car was set on fire.
A police officer in uniform was also attacked on the road. He escaped on foot and his vehicle sustained damage.
In the Wadi Ara area in northern Israel on Saturday, several Molotov cocktails were launched at the town of Mei Ami nearby. Police were called to the scene.
The clashes came after a day of violent demonstrations in East Jerusalem on the heels of the funeral of Abu Khdeir whose body was found in a Jerusalem forest on Wednesday in what is believed to have been a revenge killing for the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar who were laid to rest Tuesday.
In Shuafat, Abu Khdeir’s home neighborhood of Jerusalem, several men reportedly attempted to cut down an electric pole powering Jerusalem’s light rail with a circular saw, and posted a photo of the act to Facebook, before being chased off by police.
Dozens of people threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police forces in East Jerusalem, who responded with non-lethal weapons to quell the unrest.
Near the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, some 40 Palestinians also hurled rocks and rolled burning tires at police forces, Channel 10 reported.
The renewed violence Friday night followed several hours of relative calm in the capital after a day of heavy rioting and emotionally charged demonstrations, as Abu Khdeir was laid to rest
Police officials said there would be increased presence across the city throughout Friday and Saturday, with an emphasis on East Jerusalem and areas prone to violence.
Around 35 Palestinians and 13 police officers were lightly wounded during the day’s events, before the renewal of violence Friday night.
Police investigators increasingly believe Abu Khdeir was murdered by Jewish terrorists in revenge for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped and murdered, but there has not been a definitive declaration to this effect.
Chanting “with our blood and our spirit we shall sacrifice for the martyr,” mourners carried the shrouded body of Abu Khdeir, 16, through Shuafat as flag-waving crowds thronged the narrow streets, before he was buried in a local cemetery.
“I hope your death brings victory to Palestine,” Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha, said as her son was laid to rest. “May God burn the criminals who burned my son. I do not wish for any family to experience the sorrows that have come upon us.”
The teenager’s funeral coincided with the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. As it took place, riots broke out in several locations throughout the capital, with hundreds of Arab youths hurling stones and makeshift Molotov cocktails at police officers. Masked protesters hurled rocks at police near the site of the funeral as well. Police blocked all the roads leading from East Jerusalem neighborhood’s to the city’s western half for several hours.