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A 35-year-old man from the center of the country was arrested in Tiberias early yesterday on suspicion of raping the 11-year-old daughter of family friends near the grave of a Jewish sage considered a miracle worker.

The girl's mother told police she found the man holding her daughter at 2 A.M. in the sukkah where her children and the man's children were sleeping Saturday night, next to the grave of Rabbi Meir Ba'al Haness at the southern entrance to Tiberias.

The mother said her daughter was crying and said the man had raped her. She called the police, who arrested him.

The man, whose remand was extended by six days at police request, denied raping the girl.

"He is not denying that he was indeed present, but he says he patted the girl's hair and denies any suspicion of rape or indecent act," said his lawyer, Oleg Fragin, who is to appeal the remand extension in the Nazareth District Court today.

The girl had come to Tiberias on a holiday trip with her parents and six siblings, along with the man and his two children.

The parents had been sleeping in the car, but the mother had gone to check on the children when she found the man in the sukkah.