Israeli police are on high alert after a mixed Jewish-Arab town is hit by ethnic violence. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.
About 700 Israeli police have deployed in the historic Mediterranean coastal town of Acre, after clashes between Jews and Arabs damaged dozens of cars and shops. The violence erupted on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
Residents and police say an Arab drove his car through a Jewish neighborhood playing loud music, infuriating Jews observing the solemn Yom Kippur fast. It is customary not to drive in Israel on Yom Kippur. Jews threw stones at the car and beat the man, and as word spread about the incident, angry Arabs took to the streets.
Since it was a high holy day, police were understaffed and it took a long time to deploy reinforcements. Police finally restored order using tear gas and water cannons.
Tensions remain high and spilled over to the city council which met to discuss the riots.
Jewish and Arab council members blamed each other for the violence.
The finger pointing continued when several right-wing Jewish parliamentarians arrived in Acre, including Zvi Hendel. He said it is unacceptable that in the Jewish state on Yom Kippur, hundreds of Arabs would riot and chant "Kill the Jews!" He said that is a provocation the State of Israel cannot tolerate.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter urged right-wing legislators to tone down the rhetoric, saying their comments could "incite" more violence.
Dichter said the police are out in force to keep the peace in Acre and to prevent the violence from spreading to other Israeli Arab towns.
Jews and Arabs generally live together in peace in Acre, but ethnic tensions are always simmering under the surface. They boiled over on Yom Kippur, and now authorities are trying to keep the lid on a tense situation.