Hezbollah hails 'heroic' Arab fight in Acre against 'barbaric' assaults
Syria brands clashes between Jews, Arabs in northern town an Israeli bid to drive Arabs out.
Hezbollah on Tuesday hailed the actions of Israeli Arabs in clashes that erupted last week in Acre as "heroic" resistance against "barbaric" assaults by Jewish residents.
In a statement the group released, it hailed the "Heroic resistance aimed at protecting land and honor... [from] the violent and barbaric assaults by the Zionists."
The violence in the mixed northern city began Wednesday when an Arab resident drove into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in the city on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, during which Israelis across the country refrain from driving.
Outraged at what they described as a deliberate provocation, the Jewish residents assaulted the driver, sparking riots that raged in the city for five days.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government on Tuesday condemned Israel over the clashes, saying the violence was an Israeli attempt to drive the Arabs out of the mixed city.
The official newspaper of the Syrian government Tishrin published a notice Tuesday, saying "Israel is trying to frighten the Arabs in efforts to drive them out."
"This is additional proof that Israel hates Arabs and wants to 'purify' its territory from all Arab presence," the newspaper argued.
In addition to the notice, the newspaper, which reflects the platform of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, published a column Tuesday attacking Israel over its role in the riots. "The events in Acre underscore the spreading of racism on Israel's streets, and they refute any claim that Israel is the cradle of democracy," senior columnist Omar Jaftaly wrote.
Israeli Arab MKs slam arrest of Arab driver who sparked riots
Also Tuesday, Israeli Arab lawmakers voiced harsh criticism on Tuesday over the arrest of Tawfik Jamal, the Arab man who drove into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood of Acre on Yom Kippur sparking the 5 days of violence between Jews and Arabs in the city.
Jamal was arrested on Monday on suspicions of "harming religious sensitivities, speeding and reckless endangerment" in connection to the violence.
MK Ahmed Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) told Israel Radio on Tuesday that the arrest was an unreasonable police decision that will not contribute to calming the violence. He added that the arrest lacked legal justification and that it represented a capitulation to Jewish hooligans.
Hadash Chairman MK Mohammed Barakeh also condemned the arrest, saying it aimed to appease right wing extremists. Barakeh stated it was MK Effie Eitam (National Union - National Religious Party) who demanded the arrest after having inquired during a meeting of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee Sunday why the driver was still roaming free.
"The police abused a lynch victim while protecting gangs of extremist settlers" Barakeh said, demanding the driver's immediate release.
On Monday, an Acre court extended Jamal's remand by three days, pending further investigation.
On Sunday, Jamal told the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee that he would "sacrifice his neck" to bring coexistence back to the bi-national northern city.
"If what I did caused this, I am ready to sacrifice my neck right here on this table, on lowered gallows, just to return peace and quiet back to the city of Acre, to bring co-existence back to its place.
Jamal said that contrary to the accusations brought against him, he had not been drunk nor playing loud music when he entered the Jewish neighborhood last Wednesday. "I just wanted to go home, I made a mistake and tried to ask for forgiveness. This has been a harrowing experience," he said.
Jamal went on to say that he had been one of the founders of a community co-existence committee in Acre: "We invented co-existence," he said. "They have made me out to be a murderer, they've turned me into a fascist. We are not Nazis, we are not fascists."
Jamal's comments sparked a dispute between right-wing and Arab lawmakers, including mutual accusations of fanning the flames. Others called for calm and coexistence.
"We must not be dragged into conflict and the chase for political achievements," MK Reuven Rivlin said. "We should see how to live together."
Nineteen legislators met for the urgent debate, and called on the state to compensate Acre residents whose homes, businesses or cars were damaged in the five days of violent riots. Internal Affairs Committee chair Ophir Pines-Paz noted the 2005 precedent in the village of Maghar, following clashes between Druze and Christian residents. Artists harmed by the cancellation of the Acre Fringe Theater Festival also called for compensation.
"We call on the police to act decisively against those who took the law into their own hands and fanned the riots both with incitement and violence," Pines-Paz said.
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit announced following the meeting that the ministry would allocate NIS 1 million to the city to repair damages from the riot.