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Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 11:51 UK

Witness accounts: rioting in Acre

An Israeli Arab and a Jewish resident of the mixed Israeli town of Acre describe how Arab-Jewish rioting in recent days has affected them. Many Jewish-owned shops and cars have been damaged and several Israeli-Arab homes attacked since the unrest began on Wednesday, when an Israeli Arab drove into a mainly Jewish neighbourhood during the Yom Kippur fast.

NAHLA AL-ABEED

Nahla al-Abeed is a 37-year-old widow who lives with her four children in Shukoon 3, a mainly Jewish neighbourhood in north-east Acre. Her house was one of those attacked last Thursday night. Of the 20 or so Arab families who lived there, about 14 have now left, according to an Israeli-Arab advocacy group.

We were attacked by hundreds of Jews. People in the street were throwing rocks at the house. Some came in and rampaged through the house.

A damaged house in Acre
An Israeli-Arab woman inspects damage to her home in Acre

My eight-year-old daughter - who has kidney problems - was dragged by her hair and one man tried to push her through the railings on the windows.

She was screaming, we were struggling to free her from his grip.

The attacks lasted from 2000 until midnight. During that time the police stood by and did nothing.

I rang to ask for help and they told me they weren't a taxi service. They only showed interest after about five hours, by which time most of the mob had gone.

Eventually they took us to my parents who live in the Old City. We are still here because we are too afraid to go back.

Other families who tried to return to their houses have been attacked.

They asked the police to escort them, but I heard they were given just 10 minutes to get what they need. What's 10 minutes?

Then they left and the attackers came back.

My eight-year-old daughter has been badly affected by it, she is too frightened even to go next door to the shop to buy something.

There have always been problems between us and the Jews where we live, it's nothing new.

They write bad things on our walls, stuff like that, and the police know about it. It's really difficult to live together.

SHARI GOLDSTEIN

Shari Goldstein is a working mother of two children who was at home when Israeli Arabs stormed through the neighbourhood last Wednesday. She says windows in her house were damaged and two cars parked in front of the house were vandalised.

The Arabs destroyed the spirit of the [Yom Kippur] festival, they took advantage of the fact the police were away.

We won't be able to forgive or forget this quickly.

Many of us are still suffering; my neighbour was hit in the face next to his eye, by a stone.

They marched towards us, shouting "Death to the Jews, God is great"

There is no support from outside, we feel frustrated. The loss of property is the last of our worries.

We feel unprotected and protection from the state is one of our basic rights.

They got so close they could have killed us. They marched towards us, damaging cars and shouting "Death to the Jews, God is great".

I'm not sure if the situation between Arab and Jews can go back to what it was.

Reconciliation could be achieved gradually if their leaders could make us feel that the situation has calmed down.

They need to show us respect and keep quiet between the rest hours of 1400 and 1600.

But they drive fast and play loud music to show disrespect - that's our co-existence.

They have made a big mistake. Nearly 100 people armed with bats and knives - where were their leaders to stop them?

We Jews know how to respond to this: we will not shop in the [mainly Arab] Old City. They should have learned from the October riots [in 2000]. After that we boycotted them for two years.

This will take months to heal.


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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Al Jazeera Acre faces fourth night of riots - 10 hrs ago
Arab News Palestinian groups protest Acre riots - 17 hrs ago
Haaretz Driver who sparked Acre riots: I'd sacrifice myself to bring back coexistence - 25 hrs ago
CNN Israeli rumor riots subside - 25 hrs ago
Haaretz Olmert: Acre residents being held hostage by extremists - 26 hrs ago



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