Charges were pressed against Friday three young Israeli men suspected of attacking two Arab-Israeli men and the two Jewish women they were sitting with in a public park.
The three suspects are Yehonatan Mazar, 22, Yaniv Shabtai, 24 and Yarin Sukar, 21. All three are residents of the city of Bat Yam located near Tel Aviv. The indictment, filed by the Tel Aviv District Prosecutor, include committing a hate crime as well as weapons and illicit drug violations.
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The incident occurred in November when the three suspects and Mazar’s wife were walking through the park. The suspects, whom the police describe as all having racist ideologies, saw two young Arab-Israeli men, ages 27 and 24, sitting and talking with two Jewish women, ages 20 and 19.
According to the indictment, Sukar asked them, “What’s going on?” One of the Arab-Israeli men answered, “Everything’s fine.” They detected an Arabic accent and decided to return later to attack him.
The three allegedly returned, without Mazar’s wife, wearing masks and hoodies, and attacked the group with a variety of weapons including improvised firearms. As they were attacking the men, one of whom is disabled and uses a wheelchair, one of them shouted: “Kill him, he’s an Arab.”
The wheelchair-bound victim, who suffers from ALS, was struck on the head and hit in the chest. Sukar pointed the gun at one of them to “shoot him” but Shabtai pushed the gun away to prevent that from happening. Instead, the bullet hit the right leg of one of the Jewish women. Mazar and Shabtai confessed to the offenses during their interrogations, except for hitting one of the victims. Sukar maintained his right to remain silent throughout the investigation.
“They checked to see if we were Arabs, and apparently it bothered them that we were with Jewish women,” one of the men told Haaretz on Thursday. “I was supposed to take the bullet. They aimed at me, but they hit the woman. Instead, I got two kicks in the chest. My friend and girlfriend are still dealing with their injuries. My difficulty, at the moment, is mainly emotional.”
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The three have expressed racial hostility toward Arabs before. Shabtai recently joined a call for a demonstration which carried the message: “The Arab enemy is buying a great number of apartments in the city, and Bat Yam is slowly being conquered. … Add to this the Holocaust of assimilation. The disaster is happening under our noses.”
Mazar had previously expressed a desire to attack Arabs, writing in a post: “I am here in the park and there are four Arabs. I think I’ll attack them. Revenge.” Sukar was involved in disturbances during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May. He was indicted last July with drug possession.
Police said on Thursday that they believed the suspects were using a weapon that they had fashioned from a staple gun. When they were arrested, the suspects also had a Carlo submachine gun in their possession. In early January, the female suspect and two of the male suspects were arrested. The third male suspect was arrested last week. Police investigators suspected that the attack had anti-Arab motives, prompting a formation of a joint police-Shin Bet security service investigative team to pursue the case.