Acre Police Working to Prevent Repeat of Yom Kippur Violence

Police presence to be stepped up in northern city after riots between Arab, Jews last year.

The Northern District Police will go on high alert Sunday as a precaution for possible clashes that may occur during Yom Kippur. At noon Sunday, the commander of the Northern District, Shimon Koren, will meet with senior officers for a briefing on possible scenarios and likely violence hotspots.

Police sources told Haaretz that even though the focus of preparations are on Acre, two other mixed cities, Nazareth and Carmiel, will also fall under the plan for added security.

"According to our assessment, Yom Kippur will pass quietly, but there are always concerns about that single person who throws a stone or an unnecessary altercation between two groups of youths that can set a whole area ablaze," a senior Northern District officer told Haaretz Saturday.

Despite the police preparations there are no plans at this time to block off roads, except for a few roadblocks that will be manned by police officers in the eastern part of Acre.

The officers' role will be mostly to prevent entry into Jewish neighborhoods during the holiday. Uniformed and undercover police presence will be stepped up in the eastern neighborhoods of Acre, as well as the area near the yeshiva where fighting broke out between Arabs and Jews last year. "Any instance of violence or disturbance of peace will be dealt with immediately and harshly," police said yesterday.

The police will also deploy a zeppelin - a helium-filled, remote-controlled balloon with special cameras that can be used for surveillance over the city during Yom Kippur.

Jewish and Arab citizens in Acre said Saturday that they do not believe either side wants any trouble along the lines of last year's clashes. Tawfiq Jamal, the driver who entered the eastern neighborhood on Yom Kippur last year which sparked the clashes, said Saturday that he hoped similar incidents would not happen this year.

"I am certain that the residents of Acre, whether they are Jews or Arabs, want to continue living together," Jamal said on radio Al-Shams late last week. "What happened last year was mostly the result of outsiders who sought to incite. This year, my children and I we will not leave the house, and we will respect Yom Kippur like everyone else."

Haaretz has learned that in recent days police held meetings with representatives of the Jewish and Arab communities in the city, in order to reach agreement on the need for mutual respect.