JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli police have opened an investigation into an apparent hate crime against residents in the majority Christian northern town of Jish, where families woke up to slashed tires and extremist graffiti scrawled on buildings Tuesday morning.
Security camera footage released by Israel’s public broadcaster shows three suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts walking up to parked cars and slashing their tires one by one. The perpetrators slashed the tires of more than 150 cars.
“I woke up at seven in the morning to take my kids to school [and] I heard noise outside,” Shadi Khalloul, an Aramaic Christian living in Jish told CBN News. “I went to see what was happening. I see my father and the other neighbors and everyone standing near his car and looking very sadly [at] the car…they said someone punctured the car wheels.”
The perpetrators also spray-painted the Star of David on cars and extremist slogans on buildings. One of the messages, “Jews wake up. Stop assimilating!” was spray-painted on the walls of a neighborhood mosque.
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Authorities investigating the incident believe Jewish extremists are behind the attack and condemned it along with “all nationalistic hate crimes.”
Hate crimes against Arab or Palestinian villages by Jewish extremists are referred to as “price tag” attacks, because perpetrators view their actions as retaliation to Palestinian violence or government policies viewed as hostile to the settler movement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “find the lawbreakers and bring them to justice. We will not accept any attacks on our citizens.”
Jish council head Elias Elias told AFP that this is not the first time residents have been targeted by Jewish extremists.
"I can only imagine what would happen if things like this would have been sprayed on a synagogue in the US or Europe," he said. "The whole world would be in an uproar."
Khalloul said this is the third attack in just 18 months and some of his neighbors are afraid the incidents will escalate into violence.
“I’ve heard some people tell me ‘Look, what [if] they come and burn your house or burn or car or shoot at your home? Now they are puncturing wheels but what if worse comes?’” he told CBN News.
He added that while the Israeli government has promised to compensate victims in the past attacks, many Jish residents have yet to receive any money.
Khalloul is urging the Israeli justice system to punish the perpetrators with the same severity as it punishes Palestinian terrorists.
“These people should be treated like any terrorist and put in jail in order to educate others not to do this,” he said.
Khalloul said the attackers do not represent the Jewish people and thanked his Jewish friends from “all over the country” who called him to express their support after the attack.
He also said attacks like these will not destroy Jish’s reputation of being a place where Christians and Muslims live together in peace.
“It is a peaceful Christian Aramaic town mixed with some Arab Muslims [who] are also peaceful. We live together in coexistence with our neighbors.