Israel orders “massive strengthening” of security to quell internal violence

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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz ordered a “massive reinforcement” of security forces to help contain the deadly internal unrest that has turned mixed Jewish and Arab communities across the country upside down. The orders come in recent days amid an outbreak of violence in mixed cities in Israel.

“We are in an emergency due to the national violence and it is now necessary to have a massive reinforcement of the armed forces on the ground, and they must be dispatched immediately to enforce law and order,” he said .

He specified that the armed forces would be reservists of the Israeli Border Police, a force largely operating in the occupied West Bank.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the intercommunal violence has reached a point not seen in decades, with security forces “literally preventing pogroms from happening.”

Some members of the 21 percent Arab minority have committed violent pro-Palestinian protests, and attacks in ethnically mixed areas have intensified.

Rosenfeld said hundreds of people protested in the Arab city of Kafr Kassem in central Israel, burning tires and burning police vehicles, and more than 400 people had been arrested.

In Lod, an industrial town near Tel Aviv with drab rows of gray, barred houses, 40 percent of the population is Arab and tensions have exploded into violence for days on end. Mussa Hassuna, a 32-year-old Arab-Israeli father, was shot in skirmishes on Monday night. At his funeral Tuesday, protesters set fire to cars and threw stones and Molotov cocktails.

A synagogue was also set on fire in the city, where a state of emergency and a curfew were declared and a person was in critical condition after being shot by Arab residents.

Police said more than 150 arrests were made at night in Lod and in Arab cities in northern Israel.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin called for an end to “this madness”.

“We are threatened by missiles launched on our citizens and streets, and we are engaged in a meaningless civil war among us,” said the president, whose role is largely ceremonial.

‘Fight on two fronts’

Wednesday night, Israeli far-right groups took to the streets across the country, clashing with security forces and Arab Israelis.

Police said they had responded to violent incidents in multiple cities, including Acre and Haifa.

Israeli television broadcast images of a far-right crowd beating a man they believed to be an Arab until he lay unconscious on his back on a street in Bat Yam, near Tel Aviv.

“The victim of the lynching is seriously injured but stable,” said the Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv, without identifying him.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “what has happened in Israeli cities in recent days is unacceptable”.

“Nothing justifies the lynching of Arabs by Jews, and nothing justifies the lynching of Jews by Arabs,” he said, adding that Israel was fighting “on two fronts.”

Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Yitzhak Yossef, called for an end to attacks by Jews. “Innocent civilians are being attacked by terrorist organizations,” he said. “The heart is heavy and the images difficult, but we cannot get carried away in provocations and aggressions.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, now tasked with forming a government after the March elections, said that “the rioters in Lod and Acre do not represent Israeli Arabs. [and] the rioters in Bat Yam … do not represent Israeli Jews “.

“Violence will not dictate our lives,” he said.

( Jowharwith AFP and Reuters)