Akko riots
Photo: Shai Vaaknin
Arab house torched
Photo: AFP

Akko: 54 arrested in 4 days of riots

Police remain on high alert in northern city for fear riots will be resumed. At least 54 Jews and Arabs arrested since clashes began on Yom Kippur. Members of Hashomer Hatzair youth movement to build 'sukkah of peace' in city

At least 54 people were arrested in the past four days of riots in the northern city of Akko, which broke out on Yom Kippur Eve, half of them Jewish and half Arab. Among the detainees are two teenagers, who were placed under house arrest.


Forty-four of the detainees were already brought before a court, and the 10 others will attend a hearing at the Krayot Magistrate's Court on Sunday.


The police plan to recommend that some of the suspects be indicted over their involvement in riots, arson, violent incidents and disturbances.


There is one person, however, who was not arrested – an Arab resident who on the Eve of Yom Kippur notified the Muslim residents of Akko as to what was happening to an Arab Driver in a Jewish neighborhood. The police, who are aware of the man's identity, believe that his arrest will help calm the situation in Akko, but he is still at large.


The police said Sunday that the suspect was not a muezzin (the person who announces prayers at the mosque) but an Arab youth, who had received a call from the brother of the Arab driver who entered a Jewish neighborhood, and told him of the attack and that he required help.


The police believe that the suspect then entered one of the city's mosques whose loudspeaker system was wired into the other mosques in the city, and alerted the Arab population to what was going on in the Jewish neighborhood, starting the riots.


"The suspect knows that we are aware of his identity, and he has fled," said Chief Superintendent Avi Edri. Many of Akko's residents believe that once the agitator is arrested, the city will finally calm down.


The Akko riots were also at the focus of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting. Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen briefed the ministers on the recent developments in the northern city.


Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter was expected to visit the city following the cabinet meeting and meet with Mayor Shimon Lankry, local police officers and residents. Before the meeting Dichter urged the residents to calm things down.


The Nahariya hospital treated 14 people between the ages of 14 and 43, all of them Jews, since the onset of the riots. Some were injured by stones in their head and limbs, and two were hurt by horses used by the police. The hospital's emergency room has declared a state of emergency.

Fourth evening of riots (Photo: Dudu Azulay)


Hundreds of police officers are still deployed in Akko for fear that the riots will resume. Police Commissioner Cohen said Saturday evening that the main goal was to safeguard human life, and that "so far, we have succeeded in this mission."


At the end of an evaluation of the situation with the Northern Command and Galilee District, the police chief said that "every disturbance will be dealt with firmly and determinedly, in order to maintain law and order."


According to Cohen, the police will continue their dialogue with the city's leaders in order to bring about a state of calm and a return to routine, while in the meantime special and skilled police forces will continue deploying in the city.



Following the riots, some 30 guides of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement plan to arrive at Akko's Rabin Square on Sunday in order to build a "sukkah of peace" together with Jewish and Arab residents.


Aviv Leshem, a spokesman for the Kibbutz Movement, said that "the youngsters wandered around the city yesterday, met Arab residents and decided to build the sukkah (traditional bower) in a counter-response to the incidents taking place in the city."


The youths plan to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot in the sukkah and host Arab residents and public figures from the city's different sectors.


Itai Yehudai of the Hashomer Hatzair Movement said, "We live in Akko and are here. Our commune said that someone must show that there are people in Akko who are not only looking for violence, but that there is another way to deal with the problem. This is an educational statement directed at the Israeli public."


He said the initiative to build the sukkah was born after viewing the grave images from the riots. "We were very angered by these pictures. We know there are racist people in this country who act violently, but we wanted to show that problems can also be solved without hatred and harsh segregation.


"Fortunately, the Akko Municipality opened its doors and the police helped us. We invite people who think that things could be different to visit the sukkah all week. They are invited to sit down and talk about what happened and think how we should live together in this city. We are also planning activities for children and preparation of sukkah ornaments."


Three people were lightly injured by stones hurled at them during Saturday evening's riots. Jewish rioters torched the home of an Arab family in the city. An initial police investigation revealed that a Molotov cocktail was hurled at the house.


Ten people were arrested during Saturday's clashes, six of them Jews. Four Arabs were detained on suspicion of throwing stones at passerby from their house.


Yael Levy and Roni Sofer contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 10.12.08, 10:03
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