Ninety-one percent of those arrested on suspicion of engaging in violence during the civil unrest in Israel amid the military operation against Hamas were Arab.
Israel launched the military operation, dubbed Operation Guardian of the Walls, in response to rocket fire from Gaza into the Jerusalem area on May 10.
On Thursday, the police announced that they had completed arresting those suspected of involvement in the rioting, which began in Israeli cities with mixed Arab-Jewish populations and in Arab towns amid tensions in Jerusalem and the military confrontation with Hamas in Gaza.
A total of 2,142 people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the civil disturbances in Israel, including 1,951 non-Jews. A total of 614 suspects remain in custody and 184 indictments have been filed in 389 cases against 285 defendants.
Between May 9, a day before the military operation against Hamas was launched, and May 21, when a 2 A.M. cease-fire took effect, 1,590 people were arrested, including 170 Jews and 1,420 non-Jews. During the subsequent arrest operation, the police detained 552 people, 21 of whom were Jewish. A total of 488 of those arrested were adults and 64 minors.
Thirteen percent of all of those arrested have been indicted, although police sources say that figure will increase because there are 614 suspects still in custody and indictments are expected to be issued against most of them. “There is good evidence against them,” one police official said.
“We have made use of advanced intelligence tools, and the operations have focused on rioters with whom we have come full circle. Most of the violent cases have been solved,” said head of police operations Avi Biton. “Despite the end of the [arrest] operation, there are several investigations that are progressing in which we have not yet managed to identify the suspects. We will continue to bring to justice anyone who was involved in the riots.”
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The arrest operation was carried out by thousands of police officers in various incidents. One of the goals of the arrests was “to restore deterrence and increase governance” where necessary around the country, according to the police.
The police have been criticized for their handling of the disturbances, which included attacks on Jews and Arabs. Among the incidents were some involving live weapon fire, arson attacks on synagogues and cars, stone-throwing, the throwing of flares, and violent attacks on individuals in Acre, Jaffa and Bat Yam.
Arab elected officials were critical of the arrest operation, claiming that the police had acted against criminal suspects only when the safety of the Jewish public was endangered. “For years, we have been begging to have the Shin Bet [security service] get into the picture in the fight against crime in the [Arab] sector against crime families, but all of a sudden, when it comes to harm to Jews the police are there, there are resources, and there’s the Shin Bet,” one Arab mayor told Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai at a meeting last week.
Mudar Yunes, who heads the Arab mayor’s association, told Haaretz that the mayors protested to the police commissioner about what they alleged was violence on the part of the police and large-scale arrests of young Arabs, both male and female. Members of the police speak of restoring trust in the force, but what it has been doing won’t foster trust, Yunes said.
“All of a sudden, the police have woken up and want to carry out a law-and-order operation,” Joint List Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman said last week. “How can it be that the police can now collect cameras and check them? Where were they when the crime was rampant in the Arab sector? Apparently when it relates to saving lives in the Arab sector, the police don’t budge.”