Tuba Mob Torches Buildings in Response to 'Price Tag' Arson

Hundreds of young men took to the streets, on 10 P.M. Monday, setting fire to the local council building, destroying the Clalit HMO clinic, a youth club, a senior center and the community center.

Despite the conciliatory visit to the town of Tuba-Zangaria by President Shimon Peres and a delegation of religious leaders, hundreds of young men, furious over the arson that gutted the village mosque early Monday morning, went on a rampage later that night, setting fire to public buildings and firing into the air.

At about 10 P.M. Monday, hundreds of young men took to the streets. They set fire to the local council building, completely decimating the offices. They also destroyed the Clalit HMO clinic, a youth club, a senior center and the community center. The walls of the clinic were riddled with bullets, but no injuries were reported.

At one point, protesters headed for the intersection at the entrance to the village and tried to set fire to the gas station there. They also blocked the road with burning tires and rocks, and kept traffic from heading toward the neighboring Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi.

Police, who did not enter the village during the night of the riots, pushed the protesters back from the junction and re-opened it to traffic.

A few hours after Northern District police commander Maj. Gen. Roni Atiya came to the village and warned that police would not stand idly by, a large police contingent arrived at the village and arrested four suspects in the night's rampage.

The suspects, between the ages of 19 and 28, are to be brought to court on Wednesday for a remand hearing. Police said further arrests will be made in the coming days.

The village was quiet on Tuesday. Its stores were shuttered, and children did not show up for school. Other northern Bedouin villages followed suit.

Older people in the village said they deplored the rampage. "I am ashamed to leave home today," said one local man, Saud Heib. "I was planning on going to the bank in Rosh Pina, but I can't look people in the eye. Criminals have put us to shame. After all, the most important man in the country, Shimon Peres, and all the religious leaders came here to show us respect. So why did that have to make such a mess?"

Heib said his three sons served in the army, but at the same time he says he is angry to have to note that fact, ostensibly as proof of his loyalty to the state.

"What did they gain by burning the clinic, and all the old people and the sick will have to travel to Hazor," he said, referring to a nearby town.

"What does it help to burn tires? Will their smoke give us bread to eat? It only hurts us and sets us back," he said.

Mohammed Heib, sitting alongside Saud Heib, nodded in agreement. He knows about the price of violence in this Hula Valley village. Three years ago, his eldest son, Arkheim, 17, was murdered in the village school by another student during the school day.

"This violence is supposedly directed outward, but in the end it hurts us," Mohammad Heib said.

Some residents who said they had always felt like part of the national effort have now begun to feel like outcasts.

"Why didn't Public Security Minister [Yitzhak] Aharonovitch tell us when he came what was being done about the rabbi who incited against Arabs? Was he investigated? No. He is still receiving a salary from the state," said resident Ahmed Heib.

Hussein Heib, a former mayor of Tuba-Zangaria, said non-residents had come to the village to stir things up.