Netanyahu: Israel May Deploy Military to Quell Violence in Mixed Jewish-Arab Cities

Defense Minister Gantz said 10 more Border Police companies will move in to 'cool off' flash points across the country

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Netanyahu touring the city of Lod on Wednesday.
Netanyahu touring the city of Lod on Wednesday.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI - AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel is considering deploying military troops to quell violence in Israeli cities as well as using administrative detentions against rioters, following a wave of violent protests and a spate of attacks by Jewish and Arab civilians against one another.

The mixed city of Lod has been under a state of emergency since Tuesday, following violent riots in the city. A curfew will go into effect at 8 P.M. Israel time Thursday night until 3 A.M. Friday. Entrance to the city is restricted from 5 P.M. 

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Administrative detentions allow Israeli forces to conduct arrests without trial. Netanyahu added that he had the backing of Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai. 

"Our goal is to get results and get them quickly," Netanyahu said. "We are hearing [police officers] whisper that they fear facing inquiry committees. We will give you all the tools, you have our support, don't be afraid," the prime minister said.

Shabtai said in closed discussions that he did not believe soldiers needed to be brought in. "The police can handle the incidents," Shabtai said, according to a source familiar with the details of the conversation.

Israeli police patrol during clashes between Arabs, police and Jews, in Lod, tonight.Credit: Heidi Levine/AP

Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered on Thursday a “massive reinforcement” of Border Police forces in cities across Israel to “cool off” the violence.

“We’re in an emergency,” Gantz said in a statement, ordering the recruitment of 10 reserve Border Police companies. He stressed “no IDF soldier should be involved in policing activities, which aren’t part of the IDF’s mission.” 

Sources close to Gantz said that he would not act on autopilot to extend the state of emergency in Lod and to deploy soldiers in the city, which are considered exceptional steps not taken before.

On Thursday morning, a 34-year-old Jewish man was stabbed in the central city of Lod, a mixed Arab-Jewish community that has been one of the flash points of violence this week. 

The victim, who is in moderate condition, said he was stabbed as he was preparing to pray, and managed to fight off the perpetrator. 

This incident is the latest in a string of attacks and acts of vandalism in the city and across Israel to be condemned by leaders and public figures across the political spectrum. 

On Wednesday, a mob of right-wing Jewish extremists pulled an Arab driver out of his car and beat him in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam. He was evacuated for medical treatment in serious condition, but the 33-year-old victim's condition has since improved, following a night of extensive treatment. Prior to the event, dozens of right-wing activists marched in the city and attacked a number of Arab-owned businesses. The rioters smashed glass windows, threw objects and chanted racist slogans. Two suspects were detained on suspicion of carrying out the attack on Thursday afternoon.

Spillover in the south

Following an unprecedented night of civil violence on Israel's streets, the situation is continuing to deteriorate, in particular in southern Israel.

In the city of Be'er Sheva, 19 Jews were detained for disorderly conduct, while three Arabs were detained for the same charge after they were allegedly brawling.

On Wednesday night, hundreds of Jews marching in the city chanted "death to Arabs" and pelted Arab vehicles with stones. 

This came after several reports of rioting in Bedouin communities in southern Israel, where 55 people had their detentions extended on Thursday. 

Near the Bedouin township of Hura, several streetlights were torn down overnight Wednesday, bringing traffic to a halt on Highway 31, a multi-billion shekel road inaugurated three years ago. The highway remained closed on Thursday. 

Bedouin residents also threw stones at police officers and caused damage to infrastruture, and further incidences were reported in Rahat, Kuseife and Ar'ara.

In Segev Shalom, demonstrators set fire to the police station, but there was minimal damage to the building. 

Four suspects in Lod killing released

The four Lod residents suspected of causing the death of an Arab neighbor during riots this week were released from custody on Thursday.

The suspicion against them was downgraded from murder to reckless homicide in the death of Musa Hasuna, 32. They were issued a one-week restraining order to stay out of Lod. The Lod Magistrate's Court rejected the police's request to keep them under house arrest.

Hasuna was shot to death on the night between Monday and Tuesday, when violent confrontations between Jews and Arabs began countrywide. The suspicion is that Hasuna was hit by a bullet from a distance of tens of meters after throwing stones, vandalizing public property and throwing Molotov cocktails. Two others suffered minor injuries.

The four claimed during their investigation that they were defending themselves after some young people had drawn near them and were trying to hurt them. The four all have gun licenses. The police suspect that at least one of them aimed at the crowd of Arabs and didn't fire in the air.

Politicians on the right called for the release of the four, claiming that they were defending themselves against a wild mob. Public Security Minister Amir Ohana wrote that the arrests were "terrible" and that "law abiding citizens carrying weapons provide backup for the authorities to immediately neutralize threats and dangers." Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett called the arrests "a moral injustice, and a horrible message to anyone who wants to defend himself in future."

Hasuna, a truck driver, is survived by a wife and three children, among them a nine-month-old baby.

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