Smashed ice cream parlours and burned synagogues leave Israel facing new threat from the inside

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Israelis take cover in a shop as a siren rings during an attack of rockets from Gaza, in the country's Mediterranean city of Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv.  - AFP

Israelis take cover in a shop as a siren rings during an attack of rockets from Gaza, in the country’s Mediterranean city of Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv. – AFP

As Henry Sasin watched the news unfold of Arab and Jewish riots across Israeli cities, he received a widely circulated message on his phone.

“I am honoured to invite you to take part in a mass murder of Arabs,” it read.

Mr Sasin, a Christian Arab, read on.

“This will take place at 6pm today in Bat Yam promenade,” the message, forwarded by a concerned friend, continued. “Please come with the appropriate equipment – swords, knives, rocks, pistols.”

His heart sank when he saw a reference to a seaside shop called “Victory”. It was his own ice cream parlour.

An Israeli man stands at a restaurant that was attacked the previous night in Israel's Mediterranean city of Bat Yam - AFPAn Israeli man stands at a restaurant that was attacked the previous night in Israel's Mediterranean city of Bat Yam - AFP

An Israeli man stands at a restaurant that was attacked the previous night in Israel’s Mediterranean city of Bat Yam – AFP

By 6.20pm, videos were already being posted on social media that showed a gang of rioters kicking down the Victory parlour’s railings, smashing its windows and destroying the shop counters.

It was just one violent attack among dozens across Israeli cities this week, where Jewish and Arab extremists have been torching each others’ shops, synagogues, schools and cars.

While the rockets raining on Gaza and Israel are in some ways a familiar sight, sectarian clashes inside Israel this week have come as a shock to many. They show just how far Arab-Israeli relations have deteriorated.

The violence has become so intense that Reuven Rivlin, the president, has described the situation as a “civil war,” while prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared there was “no greater threat” to Israeli security.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to restore order and is reportedly considering the deployment of military forces inside Israel.

The morning after the attack, Mr Sasin returned to his ice cream parlour and inspected the damage, as his staff began clearing up broken glass.

“I saw that everything was broken, even the cashier, and all the glass windows had been smashed in,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.

Asked why he thought his shop had been targeted, he simply replied: “Because I am a Christian Arab.”

He was one of the lucky ones. Footage of a far-Right Israeli mob attacking a man they believed to be an Arab was aired live on television during the riot.

The shocking images showed a man being forcibly removed from his car and beaten by a crowd of dozens until he lost consciousness.

Far-right lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich, head of the “Religious Zionism” party, said he was “ashamed” of the “atrocious cruelty” of the attack.

A far-Right Israeli mob attacking who they considered an Arab man, on the seafront promenade of Bat Yam - AFPA far-Right Israeli mob attacking who they considered an Arab man, on the seafront promenade of Bat Yam - AFP

A far-Right Israeli mob attacking who they considered an Arab man, on the seafront promenade of Bat Yam – AFP

“Jewish brothers, stop! We cannot under any circumstances allow ourselves to take part in violent acts,” he said.

Israel’s chief rabbi Yitzhak Yossef called for an end to attacks by Jews.

The riots which have swept across the country this week are different from what has come before.

They are not being waged, as is often the case, between settlers and Palestinians in the disputed territory of the West Bank, but in Israel’s own cities – including the northern tourism hotspots of Acre and Haifa.

And they suggest that an alarming new front is emerging in the world’s oldest conflict.

In Acre this week, Arab extremists torched the popular Uri Buri fish restaurant, while in the city of Lod, an industrial city near Tel Aviv with drab rows of grey homes with barred windows, where 40 percent of the population is Arab, two synagogues were set alight.

The Telegraph visited one of the synagogues on Friday, where the interior was blackened by fire and the floor was covered in debris.

A picture taken in Acre, a mixed Arab-Jewish town in northwest Israel, shows the Uri Buri restaurant after it was attacked and burned by Arab extremists - AFPA picture taken in Acre, a mixed Arab-Jewish town in northwest Israel, shows the Uri Buri restaurant after it was attacked and burned by Arab extremists - AFP

A picture taken in Acre, a mixed Arab-Jewish town in northwest Israel, shows the Uri Buri restaurant after it was attacked and burned by Arab extremists – AFP

One Jewish resident said they would not only repair but expand the synagogue in defiance of Arab rioters.

Police said the inter-community violence has reached a point not seen in decades, with security forces “literally preventing pogroms from taking place”.

After the synagogue in Lod was torched a state of emergency and a curfew were declared, and one person was in critical condition after being shot by Arab residents.

Over 150 arrests were made in Lod alone and Arab towns in northern Israel, police said on Thursday.

A gunman also opened fire at a group of patrolling armed Jews on Thursday, wounding one person.

Also on Thursday, a Jewish family was attacked in the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm before being rescued by police, and an officer was shot and wounded near Ramla, another mixed city near Lod, police said.

An Israeli man looks inside a synagogue, after it was set on fire by Arab-Israelis, in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod - AFPAn Israeli man looks inside a synagogue, after it was set on fire by Arab-Israelis, in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod - AFP

An Israeli man looks inside a synagogue, after it was set on fire by Arab-Israelis, in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod – AFP

Tensions were first fuelled by the threat of Palestinian evictions in East Jerusalem and police raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.

But they have escalated dramatically since Hamas launched rockets at Israel and Israel struck back with air and artillery bombardments on Gaza

Back at Mr Sasin’s ice cream shop in Bat Yam, residents were approaching him outside to commiserate his loss – both Arabs and Jews.

One Jewish man, who was struggling to contain his outrage at the ice cream vendor’s ordeal, said he was utterly disgusted by the attack.

As for Mr Sasin, he said his anger lied elsewhere. “I am not angry with any person,” he said, before returning to repairs on his ravaged ice cream parlour.

“I am angry at the Israeli government. It is not teaching co-existence and respect for others.”