Jerusalem police arresting Yosef Meir Hazan,
Jerusalem police arresting Yosef Meir Hazan, November, 2011. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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An indictment was filed Thursday against a key member of an extremist ultra-Orthodox faction following a "reign of terror" in Jerusalem's Mea She'arim neighborhood.

The indictment of Yosef Meir Hazan was a victory for police in their ongoing war against the Sikarikim, an extremist ultra-Orthodox faction. Hazan, 21, is thought to be one of three leaders of the group's young guard. He was arrested early last week after a five-month manhunt.

Mea She'arim residents said Hazan's followers have imposed a reign of terror on the neighborhood that has included repeatedly vandalizing the Or Hachaim Center bookstore, partly in protest of the Zionist books on sale there. But their chief targets were the Gur Hasidim living in Beit Warsaw, a section of the neighborhood whose ownership is disputed among various sects.

Though Hazan is suspected of involvement in several violent incidents - some of them well-documented - the indictment filed on Thursday relates to only one: an assault on a family living in Beit Warsaw.

According to the indictment, a group of some 100 men led by Hazan and another member of the troika of leaders, Shalom Baruch Rost, came to the family's house one Friday night to evict them. Rost gave an inflammatory speech, after which the crowd allegedly threw rocks at the house for two hours, emptied dumpsters on the doorstep and smashed two windows using iron bars.

Hazan then pulled out a spray can, gave it to the man next to him and told him to spray the toxic contents into the house via the shattered windows, the indictment says. The parents gathered up their two young children, fled to the far side of the house and crouched by an open window to get some fresh air. But Hazan went around to the back, found a young boy, put him on his shoulders and allegedly told him to spray the substance into the open window - knowing full well, according to the indictment, that the children were there. The spray hit the children in the face, and they began to cough and vomit.

As police attempted to rescue the family, the mob continued to hurl rocks into the house. Finally, a Border Police force got the residents out, but the house was completely destroyed.

Police have tried several times to arrest Hazan, but were always driven off by an angry mob of his supporters. Last week, they finally succeeded.