Israeli backpackers in the Patagonia region of southern Argentina were victims of a violent anti-Semitic attack on Monday, in which three armed men assaulted guests, opened fire on a cabin and occupied the premises for four hours, The Guardian reported.
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“They came in throwing stones, smashing windows," Yoav Pollac, owner of the Onda Azul hostel in the town of Lago Puelo, said. "They chased after three cars in which some of our guests tried to escape and wrecked them. They injured me, my brother and my father, who is almost 70 years old.”
The assailants began their assault on the hostel – popular with young Israeli travelers – early Monday morning, firing shots into one of the cabins. Wielding sticks and broken bottles, they took control of the establishment for four hours, The Guardian reported.
Six police officers who arrived at the hostel 45 minutes after the attack began were forced to withdraw, and three of them were hospitalized with head injuries and one with a broken jaw.
In response to the attack, hostel owner Pollac closed the establishment on Monday, telling The Guardian that he might not open it again. "Last October they burned down one of our cabins with a Molotov cocktail. I can’t take the risk of one of our guests being killed," Pollac said.
However, in a Hebrew message posted on the hostel's Facebook page on Wednesday, the owners said that "slowly, slowly, we are starting to regroup in order to once again receive you, our guests, and give you a feeling of home and security like we've been doing for 11 years... We hope to reopen on Saturday, but we expect it may be delayed by a couple more days."
The post also contained an appeal to any guests who may have photographed or videoed the attack to come forward.
Photo of the Onda Azul hostel from Facebook
A growing anti-Semitic campaign
The attack on the Onda Azul hostel is the latest incident in an anti-Semitic campaign that has gathered steam in Patagonia, a sparsely inhabited region at the far southern extremity of South America popular with Israeli backpackers.
In December, posters appeared in Bariloche, a city situated in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, calling for a boycott of Israeli travelers. Emblazoned with “Boycott Against Israeli Military Tourism," the posters were signed by the Palestine Solidarity Committee in Argentine Patagonia. Also, the epithet “Jews Out of Patagonia” were stamped on two pesos notes.
Bariloche, a major tourism center for skiing, trekking and mountaineering, is popular with Israelis backpackers, and many stores have Hebrew signs in their windows. Bariloche is also infamous for being a haven for Nazis who escaped Europe after World World Two.
In response to the spate of anti-Semitic incidents in Patagonia, Argentina's National Institute Against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism (Inadi), condemned the campaign for creating "a climate of persecution" against Israelis and Jews, and labelling it as "worrying," The Guardian noted.