Four Israeli men were arrested during investigations into the aggression against four Palestinian students in a public park in southern Jerusalem, the police said in a statement Tuesday, adding that they are treating the attack as racially motivated.
The Palestinian students, from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and from Beit Safafa in West Jerusalem, were sitting in Gonenim Park near the Railway Park, when several Jewish youths- most of them Orthodox- approached them and started attacking them. The students were severely beaten, police said.
The attackers also hurled stoned at the students and even used a taser to attack one of the victims, the statement read.
“We were sitting there for maybe five minutes when we saw a group of about 30 men, aged 20 to 35 – one looked like their rabbi, around 55,” said Islam Agwa, one of the victims. “They were looking for Arabs and the second they saw we were Arabs their rabbi said a word and they jumped us.”
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The first suspect was arrested by the police four days after the aggression which took place on Wednesday, and said he was being investigated for a racially motivated attack.
The suspect, Avihu Haim David Cohen, 21, from Jerusalem, was also accused of trying to interfere with the investigation by judge Sharon Lari-Bavli, who said he was a danger to the public.
The police said they are continuing their investigation through a variety of technological and intelligence means, which led to the arrest of the four new suspects, bringing the total number of suspects under police detention to five.
The detained suspects are all between the ages of 16 and 20, the police said, adding their actions were spontaneous rather than planned in advance. Police will extend their preventative detention on Wednesday while continuing the investigation.
Victim Islam Agwa said that when the police came, the assailants ran off, stealing four of the Arabs’ motorbike helmets. As the assailants fled, one of them dropped his cellphone, which the police are using in their investigation.
The police took the victims for medical treatment after the beating. Agwa suffered a broken nose and deep cuts and bruises to his face, head and neck. One of his friends was injured in the shoulders by a block thrown at him.
“This wasn’t an assault, it was attempted murder,” Agwa said, adding that the police invited him and his friends to a lineup of suspects.
In another racially motivated attack on Sunday, several Palestinians were lightly injured when they were attacked by a large group of Orthodox Jews near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
In the Damascus Gate incident, according to eyewitnesses and footage from closed-circuit cameras, several dozen Orthodox men were coming out of the Old City after prayers at the Western Wall. They then threw chairs and tables from nearby restaurants and stones at Arab passersby and business owners, before they were dispersed by the police. No arrests were made.
“They think they’re strong because there are a lot of them, so they started throwing chairs and tables, and anybody who tried to protect their property got hit,” said Iyyad Kastro, a business owner at the scene.
“Every year on this night there are problems. We’re the victims of your holiday,” he added, referring to Simhat Torah. “On our Feast of the Sacrifice there are goats, and on your holiday the victims are the Palestinians."