Around 2,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv to protest a string of violent acts committed this week, Israeli media reports. The rally was organized by the Peace Now settlement organization.
“We call on the government to take strong action against the violence of the settlers and to restart immediately the peace process,” Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer told AFP, a French news outlet.
The protesters also joined a vigil organized by Israel’s gay community to mark a shocking attack on Thursday, in which an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed six people taking part in a peaceful Gay Pride march in Jerusalem. One of the victims remains in critical condition.
Police later identified the suspected stabber as Yishai Schlissel, who had recently been released from prison after serving a 10 year sentence for stabbing 3 people at the 2005 parade, according to Haaretz, an Israeli news source.
In a separate incident hours after the stabbing, Jewish settlers are suspected of setting fire to a Palestinian home in the occupied West Bank, killing an 18-month-old child and critically injuring his 4-year-old brother and parents.
Violence continued into Friday, as two 17-year-old Palestinian boys were shot dead by Israeli forces in separate incidents amid clashes across the West Bank incited by the toddler’s death. One teen was killed near Ramallah and the other in north Gaza. Several Palestinians were also injured during the protests.
The dead toddler’s uncle, Nasser Dawabsheh, attended the rally in Tel Aviv.
“[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu offers his condolences, but we ask the defense minister and the IDF to restore security in the village of Douma and in all Palestinian villages… we want this to be the end of the suffering of our people … We want the fires to end,” Dawabsheh said at the protest.
Opposition leader and Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog also spoke at the rally, stating “terror is terror, period. Terrorists are terrorists, period, whether Muslim or Jewish.” Herzog also urged Netanyahu to order the Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency, to “tackle Jewish terrorism like [it does] Islamist terror.”
Left-wing Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-On had even harsher words for the current Israeli government.
“Jewish terror is ISIS terror, there is no other way to say it… I say to Netanyahu and to MKs from the right: We don’t want your condemnations and we don’t want your soul-searching. There is a connection between the violence in Beit El, the incursion in Sa-Nur, the arson in Douma and the stabbings at the Pride Parade,” Gal-On asserted.
According to the leftist leader, who advocates a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Netanyahu has “made a career out of inciting against Arabs and leftists – from the balcony in Zion Square to campaign videos comparing Arabs to Hamas, to the ‘Arabs are voting in droves.’”
Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators came together in Jerusalem near the site of the Gay Pride march stabbings. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave a flamboyant speech at the rally on Zion Square.
“Flames have engulfed our country. Flames of violence, flames of hatred, flames of false, distorted and twisted beliefs. Flames which permit the shedding of blood, in the name of the Torah, in the name of the law, in the name of morality, in the name of a love for the land of Israel,” Rivlin said as quoted by Haaretz, stressing that Israel “will not become a state of anarchy.”
The rally was held under heightened security but did not go without incident. At least four youths were arrested and one police officer injured as a man attempted to breach a barricade and charge toward the crowd, while two more young Jews were detained while shouting slogans against the demonstration, according to the Israeli media.
There were also smaller anti-violent rallies organized in other Israeli cities.
In the latest development, police raided a home in Mea Shearim, one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, looking for another suspect in the Gay Pride march stabbing incident, according to reports.