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Israeli Police Crack Down on Jewish-Arab Violence

Israel is cracking down on a wave of ethnic violence in a mixed Jewish-Arab city. Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered police to show "zero tolerance" toward Jewish and Arab rioters in the ancient port city of Acre.

Mr. Olmert told the Cabinet the city's 53,000 residents are being "held hostage by a small group of extremists, both Jews and Arabs."

Police say they have arrested instigators of the riots on both sides and they will be punished with the full severity of the law.

About 700 police have deployed in Acre since clashes erupted Wednesday on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Though it is customary not to drive on the holiday, an Arab drove through a Jewish neighborhood with music blaring and was attacked by angry residents. Arabs responded by vandalizing Jewish-owned cars and shops. Since then, there have been stone throwing clashes and several Arab homes have been set on fire.

Each side is blaming the other for the violence. Jewish residents of Acre say they are intimidated by Arab thugs, but Israeli-Arab civil rights activist Jafar Farach sees things differently.

"For the last three years, there was ongoing incitement against the Arab community by political leaders and extreme leaders in the Jewish community," said Farach.

Prime Minister Olmert called for Israeli Jews and Arabs to isolate the extremists and live together in tolerance and mutual respect.