L.A. pro-Israel rally interrupted by violence

UPDATE 9:50 a.m. (7/15):  Jennifer Schirg, 46 and a self-identified “Jewish woman, pro-Zionist, a professional and a resident on the Westside of Los Angeles” wrote in an email to the Journal that she witnessed the unfolding of the violence at the rally: “…the reason the Palestinian men got out of their truck in the first place was in direct response to a Pro-Israel supporter running up to their vehicle on Wilshire Blvd. and taking one of their flags from out of their hands, and throwing it on the asphalt repeatedly stomping up and down on it in front of them. I was there standing on the curb and saw what happened first hand and how the scuffle unfolded.”

UPDATE 11:37 a.m. (7/14): According to the Los Angeles Times, the four detained men in connection with the fight at yesteray's rally have been “identified as Mostadafa Gamaleldin Hafez, Hassan Mustapha Kreidieh, Mohammed Said Elkhatib and Fadi Ali Obeidallah. They were booked on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. They were expected to be released after posting bail Monday morning.”

UPDATE 10:30 a.m. (7/14): The FPS officer is on paid leave while the organization investigates the alleged discharge of his weapon.

Statement from FPS

Statement from LASD

An altercation between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protestors took place at a community solidarity rally on Sunday, July 13. Photos by  Aliya Slepkov-Dror.

UPDATE 7:00 a.m. (7/14): The four men were arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, according to NBC4. LA County Sheriffs Department said the weapons were wooden flag poles that the men were holding as they drove through the crowd. Additionally, the shot was allegedly fired not by a DHS officer, as the LAPD initially told the Journal, but by a Federal Protective Service (FPS) officer.

UPDATE 9:30 p.m. (7/13): Four men are handcuffed and being held by the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department in a sheriff's car in a parking lot at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue in Los Angeles.

The pro-Palestinian counter-demonstrators who were involved in an altercation with pro-Israel demonstrators were seen leaving the July 13 demonstration in this silver pickup truck. The federal officer at the rear of the truck, seen here with one hand on the truck and the other on his holster, allegedly fired one round when the truck pulled away heading east on Wilshire Boulevard. Photo by Edmon J. Rodman

Follow @TheSichel and @ryanharrytorok for more details

A peaceful pro-Israel rally in front of the Federal Building in Westwood in West Los Angeles was interrupted late Sunday afternoon when three or four men wielding Palestinian flags arrived carrying long wooden sticks and alledgely attacked the pro-Israel demonstrators. The Los Angeles Police Department reported that more than 1,200 attended the rally.

Witnesses said several of the pro-Israel participants were hit by the sticks, but police would not immediately confirm or comment on whether anyone was wounded. A separate counter protest of about 200 supporting the Palestinians was held across the street.

When police who were already on the scene stepped in to break up the scuffle, the attackers returned to their pickup truck and drove off.  As they left, witnesses say, a gun was fired in the direction of the truck by a  Department of Homeland Security officer who was at the scene, according to Brian Thomas of the LAPD West Los Angeles Patrol Division.

There were five people riding in the truck, all Arabs living in Anaheim, according to one of them, Hany Rafai, who said he got out of the truck before the police stopped it. Rafai denied that they were hitting the pro-Israel rallyers. Rafai lives in both Jordan and Orange County.

Hany Rafai. He was the fifth man in the truck but escaped before it was pulled over. Photo by Jared Sichel

Barry Poltorak, an off-duty Los Angeles County deputy sheriff who witnessed the incident Sunday afternoon said the perpetrators could be charged with “felony assault.” The perpetrators are believed to have been apprehended according to an officer on the scene.

Poltorak said he had heard over his radio that the police pulled the car over in Westwood, for a “felony traffic stop,” he said.

Four suspects currently being held by LASD on suspicion of assault. Photo by Jared Sichel

Adam Milstein, an Israeli-born philanthropist and board member of the Israel American Council (IAC) said that the rally was one of the largest pro-Israel rallies that LA has had. Speakers included Israel Consul General in Los Angeles David Siegel,  Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Roz Rothstein co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Israeli actress and activist Noa Tishby, among others.

The IAC and StandWithUs were the co-organizers of the event, along with many other local Jewish and pro-Israel organizations.

Jewish Journal staff reporter Jared Sichel contributed to this report.

VIDEO OF THE DISRUPTION AT RALLY (Video credit, Allyson Basch, 20 year old student at Cal State Uni. Northridge):

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