Police Arrest 19-year-old Suspect in Haifa Sukkah Arson Case

Fire thought to be latest in recent series of anti-Jewish incidents in Haifa; ADL condemns act as 'hate crime.'

Haifa police detectives on Thursday arrested a local 19-year-old man suspected of burning down a sukkah (ceremonial hut) built next to a Haifa synagogue and drawing a swastika on the site overnight Sunday.

The man is also suspected of assaulting women in the 'Mahane David' neighborhood, where he resides, as well as other incidents of vandalism.

The suspect will be brought before a court for the extension of his remand on Monday, following questioning.

Police are investigating whether the arson was the latest in a series of anti-Semitic incidents committed by neo-Nazis in Haifa, or whether it was simply a prank.

In recent weeks, there have been a number of instances of anti-Semitic graffiti being drawn in various locations in Haifa.

Haifa Police Chief Dudu Ben-Atia said Sunday morning that police suspect the vandalism was carried out by a neo-Nazi cell in Haifa, although he added that these suspicions have not yet been confirmed.

He said police are investigating all leads, including the possibility that the act was implemented by a group "seeking attention."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Israel today strongly condemned the burning of a synagogue sukkah in Haifa and the spray painting of a swastika on the synagogue door.

The Anti-Defamation League office in Israel called the incident "an awful hate crime."

The ADL said it has been in contact with the Naveh David Synagogue and local police regarding the incident, adding "we encourage anyone with information about this vandalism to come forward."

Police have not yet made arrests in any of the other cases of anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalism that have occurred in the city over the past few weeks.

In one case, vandals painted a swastika in the stairwell of an apartment building, and on another occasion shouted "Heil Hitler" at a woman on the street.

"Police have activated local and widespread forces to trap the suspects and in the near future we will have some news," said Ben-Atia, with regard to the string of incidents.

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