A woman inspects the damage of an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014
A woman inspects the damage of an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014 © Ahmad Gharabli - AFP/File
A woman inspects the damage of an arson attack that targeted first-grade classrooms at a Jewish-Arab school near the Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa in southern Jerusalem, November 30, 2014
AFP
Last updated: December 11, 2014

Jewish extremists named behind Jerusalem school arson

Banner Icon Three members of an extremist Jewish group were named by Israeli security officials on Thursday as being behind an arson attack last month targeting a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.

Three members of an extremist Jewish group were named by Israeli security officials on Thursday as being behind an arson attack last month targeting a Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.

The Shin Bet internal security agency said Jerusalem resident Yitzhak Gabai, 22, and brothers Nahman (18) and Shlomo (20) Twitto of the ultra-orthodox Beitar Illit settlement were members of Lehava, an extremist group which fights against intermarriage.

On Sunday, police announced the arrest of several suspects in the torching of a classroom at the Hand-in-Hand school, a rare symbol of coexistence, without providing further details.

The Shin Bet said on Thursday the three had confessed, saying they had done it to "raise the issue of objection to coexistence and intermarriage to the top of the public and media's agenda".

Lehava activists follow the teachings of the late Meir Kahana, a virulently anti-Arab rabbi whose Kach party was banned in Israel, a Shin Bet statement said, noting that the slogans "Kahana was right" and "There's no coexistence with cancer" had been scrawled on the school's walls.

Police said Lehava activists were tied to a number of other violent incidents.

Lehava leader Bentzi Gopstein said his organisation does not act illegally, accusing the Shin Bet in a statement of trying to frame Lehava to thwart its "holy work of saving the daughters of Israel".

The November 29 attack sparked a wave of condemnation and took place amid months of rising tensions and unrest in Jerusalem.

It saw a classroom badly damaged by fire and slogans in Hebrew, including "Death to Arabs", written on the walls.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials condemned the attack at the school, which is on the Green Line separating west Jerusalem from the annexed eastern sector and has 624 pupils.

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