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Page last updated at 12:37 GMT, Thursday, 9 October 2008 13:37 UK

'Yom Kippur riot' in Israeli city

Person with face covered during rioting in Acre, 8 October 2008 (Image: www.panet.co.il)
Hundreds of people took to the streets, Haaretz said (Image: www.panet.co.il)

Riots have broken out in the mixed city of Acre, reportedly triggered when an Israeli Arab man drove his car during the Yom Kippur religious holiday.

Dozens of cars and shops were damaged as hundreds of people took to the streets, Haaretz newspaper reported.

For Jews, Yom Kippur is a sombre day of fasting, during which it is considered offensive to drive in much of Israel.

The Arab man was reportedly attacked by youths who said he was making noise intentionally, Haaretz said.

The Arab man is reported to have said he was simply driving to a property he owned in the eastern part of the city.

Tear gas during riot in Acre (8 Oct 2008) Image: www.panet.co.il
Police used force to disperse rioters (Image: www.panet.co.il)
Most of Israel comes to a standstill on Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

Streets are deserted except for a few pedestrians, cyclists and skateboarders, during the 25-hour fast which this year began on Wednesday at 1640 (1440 GMT).

Extensive damage

The unrest erupted around midnight local time (2200 GMT), with hundreds of people pouring onto the streets as news spread of the alleged assault, Haaretz reported.

A crowd gathered on Ben Ami Street, a key commercial street in the city, and caused "extensive damage" to vehicles and property in "large-scale" Jewish-Arab rioting, the report said.

Police used force to disperse the rioters, it added.

Smashed shop window, Acre, 8 October 2008 (Image: www.panet.co.il)
Shops and cars were vandalised (Image: www.panet.co.il)
"This is a very serious incident that the city of Acre has not seen the likes of in recent years and we will deal with all the rioters and those who take the law into their own hands with an iron fist," the head of the Acre police station, Chief Superintendent Avi Edri, told Haaretz.

About one third of Acre's population of almost 50,000 residents are Israeli Arabs, with the highest concentration in the Old City.

Israeli Arabs are people of Palestinian origin whose forbears remained in Israel after the foundation of the country in 1948.

They number about one million - about one-fifth of the Israeli population - and although they have full rights as Israeli citizens, human rights groups say they face discrimination and exclusion.



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