Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai said on Thursday the major police operation being carried out in Arab and mixed Arab-Jewish communities where clashes broke out this month will be extended by one week.
The announcement followed a meeting by the Knesset's Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs that discussed police figures by which 1,892 people have been arrested over the past month in connection to protests, clashes, riots and violent attacks. Of those arrested, 183 of those arrested are Jewish and the rest are Arabs; 343 are minors.
“We are in the midst of Operation Law and Order, an extensive nationwide operation that is achieving its goal – bringing to justice those involved in riots and acts of violence and crime in recent weeks,” Shabtai said on Thursday. “We will continue the operation over the next week as well, with an emphasis on arresting law offenders and confiscating illegal firearms.”
Elected Arab officials have slammed the so-called law and order operation, claiming that the police only take measures against criminals when the Jewish public’s safety is at stake. Some of them expressed fear that under the auspices of the operation, the police would arrest political activists rather than those suspected to have been involved in the rioting. 348 people have been arrested in the course of the operation, since it kicked off last week.
According to figures presented by Commander Yigal Ezra at Thursday’s committee meeting, before Sunday this week, 1,590 people had been arrested. Of these, 170 of them Jews, and 291 of them minors. By Thursday 1,093 of them were released. This week an additional 302 people were arrested, 13 of them Jews and 52 are minors. About half of the minors have been released.
Also speaking at Thursday’s committee meeting, Attorney Galit Shoham of the State Prosecutor’s Office, said the prosecution has dealt with 348 cases, filed charges against about half of them and arraigned 263 people – 30 of them Jews.
Fifteen of the indictments were for racist acts and nine for terror related offenses. Shoham said most of the charges were for disrupting public order, attacking policemen, throwing stones and similar acts.
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Attorney Shlomo Abramson of the State Prosecutor’s Office said 15 of the defendants were allegedly involved in mob violence and have been charged with acts of terror.
During the latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas this month, violent confrontations erupted between Jews and Arabs in several Arab and mixed cities nationwide. These consisted of shooting, setting synagogues and cars ablaze, throwing stones, shooting fireworks and a number of acts of mob violence in Acre, Jaffa and Bat Yam.
The prosecution has filed indictments against at least 170 people who took part in riots, attacking policemen and destroying property.
Commander Yigal Ezra said at the committee meeting that the arrest operation had been planned for June 1, but was pushed up to make use of the enlistment of reservists. “From the beginning of the year 1,670 firearms were captured” in the Arab community,” he said.
Ezra said the estimated number of firearms held in the Arab community is not tens of thousands, as is often thrown about in discussions, but rather somewhere in the ballpark of 8,000 – 10,000.
During the debate, lawmakers and speakers at the meeting exchanged heated shouts and accusations. When the head of the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, Jafar Farah, asked why inciters from the Jewish supremacist Lehava and La Familia organizations and Otzma Yehudit lawmaker Itamar Ben Gvir were not arrested, Ben Gvir called Farah “brazen” and accused him of “beating cops in Haifa.” Farah’s leg had been broken during his arrest in Haifa in 2018, and a policeman was indicted in the case.
Toward the end of the discussion, when Chairman Manssour Abbas pointed out the need for authorities to strike a balance between enforcing the law and nurturing freedom of expression, Ben Gvir and Religious Zionism lawmaker Orit Strock shouted at him: “You don’t have a majority in this house that warrants an approach that embraces rioters. Shame on you. We want a deterrence approach.”
Joint List lawmakers did not attend this committee meeting, just as they did not attend the previous one.