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Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 12:02 UK

Israeli Arab arrested after riots

Israeli police officer passes vandalised shop
The rioting in Acre caused widespread damage to property

Police have arrested an Israeli Arab man who sparked four days of rioting in the town of Acre by driving in a Jewish area during the Yom Kippur holiday.

Tawfik Jamal was remanded in custody on Monday for three days for reckless endangerment, speeding and harming religious sensitivities, police said.

Mr Jamal earlier said he regretted his "mistake", but denied accusations that he had been drunk or played loud music.

Police have arrested 64 people since the unrest erupted late last Wednesday.

On Monday, Israel President Shimon Peres called for reconciliation between the Jewish and Israeli-Arab communities in the town, where about 14 Israeli-Arab families remain unable to return to their homes.

Hundreds of Israeli police officers are continuing to maintain a strong security presence in the town.

Plea for harmony

On Sunday, Mr Jamal told a committee of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, he would "sacrifice his neck" to restore harmony to Acre.

I am sure some Jews also drove on Yom Kippur - will the police arrest them?
Abbas Zkoor
MK for Acre

"If what I did caused this, I am ready to sacrifice my neck right here on this table, on lowered gallows, just to return peace and quiet back to the city of Acre, to bring co-existence back to its place," he said.

He added that he had been one of the founders of a community co-existence committee in the mixed northern town.

"We invented co-existence," he said. "They have made me out to be a murderer, they have turned me into a fascist. We are not Nazis, we are not fascists."

Following Mr Jamal's arrest on Monday night, Israeli-Arab lawmakers said the arrest was politically motivated and demanded his release.

"I am sure some Jews also drove on Yom Kippur. Will the police arrest them?" asked Abbas Zkoor, an MK for Acre.

Reconcialation meeting between Jewish and Muslim leaders in Acre
President Peres urged both sides not to inflame the situation further

Religious Jews fast and refrain from driving on Yom Kippur, regarded the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

The rioting in Acre first broke out late on Wednesday, when Jewish youths attacked Mr Jamal after he drove into a conservative area in the east of the town.

An Israeli-Arab mob subsequently rampaged through the streets after the rumour spread that Mr Jamal had been killed.

In the days that followed, crowds of Jews and Israeli Arabs tried to attack each other, and each other's property. At least three Israeli-Arab homes were torched, police said.

About 10 police were injured by rioters, but no civilians were hurt, they added. Of the 64 people arrested, about half of them were Arab, the rest Jewish.

Appeal for calm

In a call on community leaders and politicians on Monday, President Peres warned that while "there are several religions in Israel, there is only one law and one police".

"We must be careful with every word, for words can be deadly," he said.

About one-third of Acre's population 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 have long said they face discrimination and exclusion.

On Sunday, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert admitted that "for many years there has been discrimination against the Arab population".

He has called for zero tolerance against rioters in the town, which he said had previously been a "shining example of co-existence".


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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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