Muslim vendor was target of NYC attack, not yeshiva students


A firebomb believed to have been thrown at two Israeli yeshiva students in New York City was actually aimed at a Muslim food truck vendor, police said.

The students, both 19, were walking in Midtown Manhattan on Friday when a still-unidentified assailant threw a bottle filled with combustible liquid that landed in front of them.

New York Police Department spokesman Lee Jones told the Gothamist blog on Monday that the Israeli students were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that the real target was the vendor, Saleh Hegazy, who had argued with someone who came back to attack him.

“It looks like an individual got into some sort of dispute with a manager at a food cart storage facility, came back and threw a bottle containing a combustible substance,” Jones said.

Jones also disputed the term “firebomb,” saying instead that an individual threw a bottle containing an unidentified substance.

The students, Yosef Rachimi and Yisrael Gadasi, are studying at a Brooklyn yeshiva for one year. They reportedly often visit Jewish-owned businesses to encourage people to perform mitzvahs, or good deeds.

Palestinian home attacked with firebomb


A Palestinian home near Hebron was set alight by a firebomb in what is believed to be a price tag attack.

The Molotov cocktail was thrown through the living room window of the house at about 4 a.m. on Wednesday, while the home’s 10 residents were sleeping. Most of the living room was destroyed by the fire.

The father of the family told Ynet that two masked men threw the firebomb. The Hebrew word for revenge was spray painted on the outside of the house.

“Price tag” refers to the strategy adopted by extremist settlers and their supporters to exact retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

The attack comes days after a Jewish home is eastern Jerusalem was firebombed, and a week after a firebomb thrown by two Palestinian teens in the northern West Bank severely injured an 11-year-old Israeli girl.

Later on Wednesday, Palestinians and West Bank residents clashed after the Palestinians arrived to plough fields near the settlement of Nokdim located in Gush Etzion. The Palestinians had not coordinated the visit with the appropriate government authorities, according to the settlers.

Israeli girl, 11, seriously injured in West Bank firebomb attack


An 11-year-old girl was seriously injured when a firebomb hit their car in the northern West Bank.

The girl, Ayala Shapira, was taken to a Tel Aviv hospital with third-degree burns over 50 percent of her body, including her face and upper body following the Thursday evening attack. She is unconscious and on a respirator, and her injuries are reported to be life-threatening.

Her father, 40, who rescued her from the car, is in light condition.

They were driving from their home in the El Matan outpost near Maale Shomron to a bat mitzvah at a synagogue in the neighboring community of Ginot Shomron.

The car was completely destroyed by fire.

Israeli troops entered a nearby Palestinian village to find the person who threw the firebomb.

The car of Ayala’s mother was hit by a firebomb a month ago, but she escaped unhurt.

Amsterdam apartment flying Israeli flag targeted with firebomb


A Jewish woman who displayed an Israeli flag from her balcony in Amsterdam was targeted with a firebomb and death threats.

The firebomb landed on the balcony of neighbors of Leah Rabinovitch, a Mexico-born Jewish woman who flew the Israeli flag on Amsterdam’s Kruger Square, located in an eastern neighborhood heavily populated with Moroccan immigrants, the Het Parool daily reported Wednesday.

The report did not say whether the firebomb ignited and whether it caused any damage, but according to the FokNews website, it landed on a neighbor’s balcony. Fok also reported that a stone that was hurled at Rabinovitch’s apartment smashed a window, and that one of the death threats sent to Rabinovitch read: “Heil Hitler, Hitler is coming back, Jews must die.”

Rabinovitch and her partner put out the flag several weeks ago as a sign of solidarity with Israel’s assault on Hamas in Gaza. Their downstairs neighbors displayed on their balcony a Palestinian flag and demanded that Rabinovitch remove her flag.

Complaints by the downstairs neighbor led the Rochdale housing association that manages the apartments to send letters to both apartments ordering them to remove the flags and warning that they would be held accountable for damages resulting from vandalism, Het Parool reported. Rochdale defined the conflict as an “ongoing neighbor quarrel.”

Rabinovitch told Het Parool she had no previous conflicts with the neighbors prior to hanging the flag.

“They present it as though I was trying to provoke with my flag, but it wasn’t about making a statement,” she said. “We find it difficult to understand why Rochdale, the police and the neighbors want us to remove our flag. Should I feel afraid in my own house? If I remove the flag it means tolerating anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Israel rioters torch cars, throw firebomb at Paris-area synagogue


PARIS (JTA) — Anti-Israel protesters hurled a firebomb at a synagogue during an unauthorized demonstration in a heavily Jewish suburb of Paris.

The riot broke out on Sunday afternoon in Sarcelles after a few hundred people assembled at a local metro station to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza, as well as the decision by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazaneuve to ban rallies against Israel following the staging of riots last week outside several synagogues in the Paris region.

The firebomb was hurled at the Synagogue of Garges-Les-Gonesse at a smaller rally that splintered off the main demonstration. It hit the building but did not cause serious damage, the daily online edition of Le Figaro reported.

In addition, rioters torched at least two cars as they clashed with police near the synagogue.

Organizers of the protest rally at the metro station urged the crowd not to resort to violence, but a few dozen demonstrators confronted police as others were leaving the demonstration, the online edition of the Le Nouvel Observateur weekly reported. Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators and surrounded a synagogue nearby, blocking the entire street.

Approximately 30 young Jewish men were standing at the synagogue entrance holding sticks; one was holding an Israeli flag. The French Jewish Defense League, or LDJ, said on Twitter that it was guarding the synagogue along with police.

Protesters also smashed the windshield of several parked cars and at least one shop.

Sarcelles has a large Sephardic Jewish population.

On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators protesting Israel’s military operation in Gaza confronted police in central Paris. Fourteen police officers were lightly wounded and 38 protesters were arrested.

Firebomb hits former synagogue in Romania


A firebomb thrown into a former synagogue in central Romania caused minor damage, a local Jewish watchdog group said.

The firebomb was aimed at the wooden part of the floor of the former synagogue of Sighisoara, the Center for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism in Romania said in a statement Tuesday about the recent attack.

The building, which has been converted into a cultural center, is in proximity to the site of an earlier attack in Ploiesti, near Bucharest, where a local synagogue’s windows were shattered when vandals pelted them with stones, wrote the watchdog group’s director, Maximillian Marco Katz.

Police are investigating both incidents.

Katz wrote that violence against Jews and buildings associated with Jews is rare in Romania. He added that “growing anti-Semitism in Hungary, the Hungarian extremism imported into Transylvania and the general growth of the anti-Semitism in Europe” may have triggered the attacks.

Two injured in West Bank firebomb attack


Two people sustained minor injuries when a firebomb hit their car near the West Bank settlement of Efrat.

The car was completely burnt in the attack Thursday night, Army Radio reported. The two victims had burns and were taken by ambulance to a hospital in Jerusalem.

The attack was the third serious incident in the West Bank over the past 24 hours.

On Thursday night, in two separate incidents, Israeli troops shot and killed two Palestinians whom they suspected of carrying out an attack.

The first incident occurred at the Abu Dis checkpoint near Jerusalem. Troops shot a Palestinian man in the abdomen after he tried to stab a Border Police officer, the report said. Medics evacuated the Palestinian man to hospital but he died of his injuries. None of the Israelis was hurt.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, troops killed a Palestinian after he fired a flare gun at Israelis standing at a bus stop near the settlement Tapuach, according to eyewitness accounts.

“There were four people inside the bus stop,” Asher Hoffman told Army Radio. “We heard explosions and saw a terrorist running in our direction. The Border Police intercepted him, fired at his direction and hit.”

Israeli troops kill Palestinian, wound two in West Bank clash


Israeli troops killed a Palestinian on Tuesday during a confrontation with a stone-throwing crowd in a flashpoint district of the occupied West Bank, both sides said.

The incident in Fuwar, near the city of Hebron, stoked tensions ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama next week that has been billed as a bid to encourage new peacemaking.

Witnesses said Israeli soldiers raided Fuwar and opened fire after coming under a barrage of rocks from local Palestinians. Hospital officials said a 25-year-old man died after being shot in the head and two others were wounded by the Israelis.

Citing the results of an initial investigation, an Israeli military spokeswoman said the troops had been attacked with fire-bombs on a nearby road and pursued the assailants into Fuwar, where they encountered the stone-throwers.

“Feeling a threat to their lives, they (the soldiers) fired toward the assaulters,” the spokeswoman said, confirming that a Palestinian was killed in the shooting.

Obama is expected to fly in on March 20 for separate talks with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, in the West Bank, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Netanyahu and Abbas last held talks about internationally-backed plans for founding a Palestinian state alongside Israel in late 2010.

Palestinian frustration at the stalled diplomacy has been fanned by Israel's expansion of West Bank settlements and a rift between Abbas's administration the armed Hamas Islamists who run the Gaza Strip and reject coexistence with the Jewish state.

Palestinians have also taken to the streets to protest against Israel's jailing of thousands of their countrymen. The resulting confrontations, often bloody, have drawn warnings on both sides that a full Palestinian revolt could be brewing.

Reporting by Mustafa Abu Ganeyeh and Ali Sawafta; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Palestinian cars torched in price tag attack


Palestinian cars were torched and vandalized in a price tag attack near Ramallah in the West Bank.

Israeli troops reportedly discovered one car burnt and two others spray-painted with slogans that read “Price Tag,” “Migron” and “Revenge to Arabs” in the early Wednesday morning attack.

The troops entered the Palestinian village after reports of Israeli civilians in the area.

Price tag refers to the strategy that extremists have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians and Arabs in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions, or for Palestinian attacks on Jews. The Migron outpost had been scheduled to be evacuated on Tuesday but was not.

On Tuesday, two torched cars were discovered in a Palestinian village near Hebron.

Meanwhile, Palestinians threw six firebombs at Israeli army patrols in eastern Jerusalem early Wednesday morning. One man was arrested in connection with the attack.

State Dept., ADL slam attacks on Palestinians


The U.S. State Department and the Anti-Defamation League condemned a firebomb attack on Palestinians believed to have been carried out by settlers.

“We note that the Government of Israel has also condemned this heinous attack and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the State Department said in its statement Friday. “We look to Israeli law enforcement officials to do so expeditiously. We urge all parties to avoid any actions that could lead to an escalation of violence.”

Six Palestinians were injured when a taxi caught fire in a suspected firebombing near a West Bank Jewish settlement on Thursday.

Israeli police believe the fire was the result of a settler throwing a firebomb at the vehicle and said a second firebomb was located near the site of the attack, which took place near the Bat Ayin settlement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior security officials have condemned the attack and pledged to apprehend the perpetrators.

The ADL statement condemned the fire bomb attack as well as a mob assault on Palestinians in downtown western Jerusalem on Friday morning that left one seriously injured.

“If the attacks were carried out by Israeli Jewish youth, this violence cannot be seen as isolated incidents,” the ADL said in a statement. “Israeli leadership – political, religious, cultural – must come together to make clear that these manifestations of hate are unacceptable and will not be tolerated, and that country-wide social and educational initiatives must be considered.”

Palestinians injured in possible West Bank firebombing


Six Palestinians were injured when a taxi caught fire near a West Bank Jewish settlement.

Palestinians said Thursday’s fire was the result of a settler throwing a firebomb at the vehicle. Israeli police said a second firebomb was located near the site of the attack, which took place near the Bat Ayin settlement, Haaretz reported.

Police investigators looking into the incident were trying to determine the cause of the fire and whether the car was actually hit by the incendiary projectile or overturned for other reasons.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported that a family of four, including two 4-year-olds and their parents, were among the victims, who were transported to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Karem hospital by Magen David Adom ambulance.

Chasidic teen sentenced to seven years in N.Y. firebombing


A Chasidic teenager who firebombed the home of a neighbor over a religious disagreement was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Shaul Spitzer, 18, of the New York State village of New Square, was sentenced Tuesday in Rockland County Court after pleading guilty in February to the arson attack on the home of Aron Rottenberg.

Last May 22, Rottenberg was severely burned over half of his body in the early morning attack outside of his home in New Square, which has a population of 7,000, mostly from the Skverer Chasidic sect. Rottenberg has undergone several skin graft surgeries.

Spitzer, who also was badly burned in the attack, had been charged with first-degree attempted arson, first-degree assault and second-degree attempted murder.

Rottenberg had asked Judge William Kelly to be lenient with Spitzer, according to CBS News, causing Kelly to knock several years off the 10-year cap offered in a plea bargain. During Tuesday’s hearing, Spitzer apologized for the attack and said he had meant to scare the family into moving out of the community.

Spitzer had spent a year as a live-in aide to Rabbi David Twersky, the rebbe of the Skverer sect, before the attack.

Rottenberg filed a civil lawsuit last June against Spitzer and Twersky saying that prior to the arson attack, his family had suffered harassment in the form of rocks thrown at the windows of their home and car, the expulsion of one daughter from the village’s religious school and threatening phone calls to their home. Rottenberg claimed that Spitzer had attacked the home by direction of the rabbi. The rabbi was not charged. The lawsuit was settled for $2.3 million, according to reports.

Rothenberg and his family say they were targeted for harassment for his refusal to pray in the main village synagogue presided over by Twersky. They are moving out of the New Square community, the News-Journal reported.

Reno Skinheads Sentenced to Jail


Joshua Kudlacek, at 19 the youngest of the defendants, received a five-year sentence.

Five skinheads who attempted to firebomb a synagogue in Reno, Nev., one year ago have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

On Nov. 30, 1999, the five, ages 19 to 26, accompanied by two teenaged girls, tried unsuccessfully to burn down Temple Emanu-El, home to an 80-year old Conservative congregation.

The sentence “sends a very strong message that this kind of hatred is not going to be tolerated, at least not in this community,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden said following last week’s sentencing by Judge David Hagen.

According to the defendants’ testimony, one of the skinheads threw a Molotov cocktail and a liter bottle filled with concrete at the synagogue’s 8-foot window.

The concrete bottle damaged — but did not break — the window, and the gas-filled bottle only scorched the sidewalk, according to reports in the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper and wire services.

Joshua Kudlacek, at 19 the youngest of the defendants, received a five-year sentence.

Terms of between 14 and 15 years were imposed on Scott Hudson, Daniel McIntosh, Carl DeAmicis and Christopher Hampton. They were also ordered to pay the synagogue $3,743.50 for damage to the window.The defendants avoided possible 40-year sentences through a plea bargain.

Prosecutor Bogden gave a slide presentation of the defendants’ clubhouse, which showed Nazi and Confederate flags, a “Whites Only” sign and a photo of Ku Klux Klan members in full regalia.

Three of the defendants sported Nazi tattoos in the video. The most prominent was a 4-inch-high swastika, outlined in red and black, just above the right ear of DeAmicis’ shaved head.

“You can look him right in the head, and you see that swastika carved in his head. It’s red. He wanted it red, but he had to do something to earn it — that was to throw the fire bomb,” said Bogden.

Later Bogden explained that the “skinhead mentality is to earn ‘reds’ you must draw blood.” When DeAmicis “filled the tattoo in red, it obligated him to draw blood or some other serious offense.”

The U.S. attorney also quoted McIntosh as saying he had targeted Jews because “they are evil, they control the media and they put racial mixing on TV, and that is wrong.”