Israel Set to Impose Curfew in Mixed Jewish-Arab Town Over Rioting

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A bus set alight in Lod, yesterday.
A bus set alight in Lod, yesterday.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israel declared overnight Tuesday a state of emergency in a mixed Arab-Jewish town in central Israel following clashes there in recent days between Jewish and Arab residents and police. Twelve were wounded, one in serious condition.

Declaring a state of emergency transfers control over Lod to the police, granting Commissioner Kobi Shabtai broad powers and the authority to impose nighttime curfew in an attempt to quell the violence.

Anti-police violence broke out Tuesday at the funeral of an Arab man from Lod, who was killed the previous night, allegedly by armed Jewish residents defending against rioters. Clashes spread across the country following fatal Israeli air strikes in Gaza and mass injuries to Palestinian protesters on Jerusalem's Temple Mount on the previous days.

Riots seen in the city of Lod in central Israel

On Tuesday, a synagogue and 30 cars and a bus were set on fire in Lod and a 56-year-old Jewish man was seriously injured after stones were thrown at his car, in the latest in a series of attacks targeting both Jews and Arabs.

Police sent reinforcements to Lod on Wednesday morning, with some 250 police officers deployed in the streets since the early hours. By law, a state of emergency can be declared for 48 hours and could be extended by up to five additional days.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Lod overnight Tuesday, describing events there as "anarchy." The prime minister also urged residents to let police, military and security forces deal with the situation, instead of taking the law into their own hands. 

A car that was set on fire during riots in Lod on Tuesday.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

"We're seeing something never before seen in the mixed [Arab-Israeli] cities," said Shabtai on Tuesday night, "This includes severe violence, nationalism, vandalization of religious symbols, and attempts to hurt police officers and block traffic routes. The police have a long list of tasks, and we will do our jobs and restore order."

Police forces arrrive in Lod.

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana wrote on Wednesday morning that "The arrest of the shooter and his friends in Lod, who apparently acted in self-defense, is a terrible thing. Even if there are details the public isn't aware of yet, law-abiding citizens bearing arms increases the authorities' ability to prevent any threat or danger. Arrests and releases aren't for the minister to decide. If it were, they'd be released. The law enforcement system would do well to do that."

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett also called for the release of the suspects, "The fact that at the moment they're under arrest is morally unjust and sends a bad message to anybody trying to defend themselves," he tweeted on Wednesday morning. "The Public Security Ministry and police must immediately assure the families besieged in their homes, for fear of the Arab rioters who should be brought to justice."

Some 200 masked protesters gathered outside the Lod municipality building, where they burned trash cans and hurled stones and fireworks at police. Police arrested about 150 suspects for arson, stone-throwing and disturbing the peace in localities from north to south.

In Ramle, a mixed Jewish-Arab city adjacent to Lod, a number of synagogues were vandalized by rioters, a Muslim cemetery was set on fire, a bus on the main street was pelted with stones, a Judaica store’s windows were shattered, and the central Bialik Street was closed off due to fires.

Ten people were hospitalized after clashes in Lod and Ramle. Dozens of people rioted on Tuesday night outside the emergency room at Shamir Medical Center southeast of Tel Aviv after wounded from violent incidents in Lod and Ramle were admitted.

Meanwhile, protesters in the south blocked off Highway 6, near Shoket Junction, early Tuesday morning. Police said they rescued a woman after her car arrived at the blocked intersection and protesters removed her from her vehicle and set it on fire.

At the Lakiya Junction six kilometers away, Avichai Marciano told Haaretz that dozens of young people blocking the road with burning tires pelted his car with stones.

“They surrounded us, ... one of them smashed my window with a stone and, with the same stone, hit me on the left side of my face and jaw.” He said that he called the police, who said they were on their way, but didn’t arrive. An ambulance managed to break through the police barrier and evacuate them, he said. 

At protests in Jaffa, two police officers were wounded, and three protesters were detained.

An 84-year-old man was seriously injured due to a fire that was set at the Akotika Boutique Hotel in the old city of Acre on Wednesday night, amid heavy clashes that broke out in the city between Arab protestors and police.

The fire also moderately injured a 17-year-old and a 76-year-old who suffered from smoke inhalation. Following the arson at the hotel, police evacuated the guests.

A police station and the Uri Buri restaurant were also set on fire, and the Efendi Hotel vandalized. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to arrive in the city today and meet with Mayor Shimon Lankri. The Acre municipality said this morning that Lankri also met with a representative of the Shin Bet and asked him to "handle the incident thoroughly."

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