Synagogue Complex Set Ablaze; Gantz Extends State of Emergency in Central Israeli City

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Police officers in Lod, tonight.
Police officers in Lod, tonight.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

While Gaza rocket fire into Israel continued on Thursday, Jews and Arabs again attacked each other. Throughout the day, calls for violence persisted on social media. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was considering the use of administrative detentions against rioters and deploying military troops to quell the violence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities.

In Lod, where Defense Minister Benny Gantz extended the state of emergency another 48 hours on Thursday evening, the Dossa Synagogue complex was set ablaze. Earlier in the day, a 19-year-old medic was shot in the lower part of his body. He reportedly suffered a minor injury. He was evacuated to Assaf Harofeh Hospital.

A view of the synagogue complex that was set ablaze in Lod, tonight.

Around 800 police officers in uniform and undercover police have been deployed in the area. For the first time since the beginning of the riots, the police set up roadblocks leading to the pre-army academy and to the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood.

"We are doing our utmost to back up the residents of Lod and to attack very powerfully," Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said Thursday. "Half-a-year after I entered the job, I appointed an aggressive police commissioner, an initiator," he said, referring to Kobi Shabtai. "We have here an excellent commissioner. I expect significant change. These things take time."

Israeli journalist attacked during riots in Tel Aviv, today.

According to law, the police is authorized during a state of emergency to mobilize military troops, while the defense minister determines the scope of the deployment.

In Jaffa, a 19-year-old soldier was attacked and taken to Ichilov Hospital, Tel Aviv in serious condition. "The youth was sitting on the sidewalk still conscious, suffering from a wound and bleeding from his head," Nadav Arazi, a paramedic with Magen David Adom said. "He told us he was attacked during disturbances in the area, and that stones were thrown at him and that teargas was sprayed at him.

Also in Jaffa, a man sitting in his home was shot, probably by a sponge-tipped bullet, by police forces. He was photographing the police officers walking through the Ajami neighborhood when he was shot. The man, Ibrahim Suri, was at home during clashes in the neighborhood between Jews who were looking for Arabs to attack. He photographed six police officers walking on the street.

One of them said to his partner: "What is he aiming at us?"

He responded, "What, am I forbidden from photographing? You want to shoot me, please shoot." He repeated himself, adding that everything was being filmed.

Immediately thereafter, the sound of gunfire could be heard and Suri started screaming. Another gunshot was heard eight seconds later.

The Israel Police commented: "We are not familiar with the incident. Still, it will be brought accordingly for review by authorities.  

In the Hatikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv, right-wing activists attacked journalists and Arab residents. Dozens congregated after a call for people to attend an anti-Arab demonstration. A cameraman for the Kan public broadcaster, Roland Novitzky, was physically assaulted by demonstrators, who took away his camera and beat him on the head with a helmet. Two suspects were arrested. 

Police and residents in Tel Aviv's Hatikva neighborhood, tonight.Credit: Hadas Parush

In Bat Yam, the police arrested eight people, including minors, on suspicion of being involved in rioting and wielding offensive weapons – including clubs and knives.

As in recent days, right-wing Jewish extremists used the internet to call for anti-Arab attacks in mixed cities. “Any Arab you see – you stab,” said an invitation for a demonstrations in south Tel Aviv and Jaffa. It went on to say: “Please come equipped with flags, bats, knives, guns, brass knuckles, wooden boards, pepper spray, anything that would hurt them. We will restore the honor of the Jewish people.”

The FakeReporter watchdog group, which gave police information on the upcoming rallies, called them “a ticking time bomb that must be stopped immediately.”

Earlier Thursday, the protesters walked through the neighborhood shouting "death to Arabs" and "To Jaffa! To Jaffa!" However, police blocked their path. Later, protesters stood on Etzel Street and the police used stun grenades.

In Haifa, 28 people were arrested, including eight Arabs who were arrested after clashing with police and burning garbage bins. Also, a 66-year-old woman was hit by stones thrown at a bus in the Hadar neighborhood. She was evacuated to Rambam Hospital with minor injuries. 

Israeli security forces in Lod.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

In Umm al-Fahm, the police rescued a family that accidentally entered the city and was attacked. The parents and their three minor children were treated for minor injuries and taken for treatment to Emek Medical Center after they managed to flee.

In Acre, Arabs hurled fireworks in the Wolfson neighborhood, where there had been riots on Wednesday night, and poice responded with stun grenades, sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas. A doctor in the neighborhood said: "You saw what happened. There wasn't anything here. Some woman shouted 'police, police,' and they started shooting sponge-tipped bullets." Meanwhile, Jews were rioting in an Arab-owned grocery store. They were stopped a little while later. 

Police had prepared earlier Thursday for more prospective clashes between Jews and Arabs. On social media, calls went out throughout the day for violent rallies. Police beefed up forces after a series of violent clashes on Wednesday and a state of emergency was declared in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod. The Jewish Division of Israel’s Shin Bet security service has also been involved in preparations for more clashes, as police fear Jewish right-wing activists plan to rally in Israel’s mixed cities such as Lod, Acre and Jaffa, as well as Bat Yam and Bedouin villages in the south.

A law enforcement source said that the Shin Bet has shared intelligence over the past 24 hours on Jewish extremists’ plans to enter those cities in order to clash with Arabs.

In Kiryat Motzkin, a 23-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of incitement on social media.

An Israeli wounded by gunshot evacuated to receive treatment in Lod, today. Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Israel Police deployed in large forces in Arab and mixed cities. For the first time, undercover units will join hundreds of other officers in Lod in wake of the state of emergency. Roadblocks have also been erected.  

On Thursday afternoon, Israel Police called on parents to “take responsibility” for their children and ensure they do not take part in the violent clashes across the country. 

Right-wing activists used social media to plan a series of attacks on Arabs in Jerusalem. The flurry of messages showed activists from organizations like Lehava, La Familia and others planning to meet at a number of central locations in the capital.

The head of Lehava, Benzi Gopstein, called on his supporters to come to Sheikh Jarrah in order to, as he put it, help Jewish residents defend themselves against Palestinian attackers. There have been violent clashes between Jews and Arabs in the neighborhood in recent days, and on at least two occasions a Jew has discharged a firearm. The police are expected to deploy in large numbers along the seam between East and West Jersualem.

Police officers fired stun grenades at a group of Arabs that had started to clash with Jews.

On the other end, two anti-violence protests took place in Jerusalem Thursday evening. Hundreds of Jewish and Arab participants met under the banner "Jews and Arabs can live together."

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