December 21, 2010 - 1:00am

Israeli security force have arrested nine suspects over the last two weeks suspected in a string of attacks against Arab in central Jerusalem, it emerged Tuesday after a gag order on the investigation was lifted.

Seven of the nine suspects are minors and all are residents of Jerusalem or West Bank settlements. The suspects were released to house arrest following questioning.

An initial investigation has found that the nine individuals formed a gang that used the prowess of a 14-year-old girl to lure their prey. She would approach the chosen victim, ask them for a cigarette or invite them for a walk, and then lead them to where the assailants were waiting – the schoolyard of the Experimental School in Jerusalem, the Independence Park or a nearby pedestrian plaza.

As soon as the girl would arrive with the victim, the assailants would begin to pelt them with rocks, bottles or even pepper spray, according to details of the investigation.

The Jerusalem Police believe that the nine are members of an organized gang led by a 14-year-old boy, that has made nationalist attacks against Arabs its central goal.

The young men have reportedly been roaming in and around Independence Park seeking Arabs to attack, trying to identify them by their accent. Haaretz has learned of a number of attacks over the last few months, and the stabbing of an Arab in July.

The same gang is suspected of attacking a Chilean tourist who they mistook for an Arab, an incident that stirred uproar in the South American media and angered the local immigrant community.

Silwan resident Annan Yagmor, 21, an alleged victim of one of these attacks in November, he was approached by a group of men in Independence Park as he was walking home.

They asked him for a cigarette, accompanied him a short way, jumped him and beat him. He said they wanted to see his ID card and shouted "Arab, Arab." They also sprayed him with tear gas.

Adem Sabih said he was similarly attacked on October 31 in the same area, by 20 or 30 skullcap-wearing young men. They asked him his name and then jumped him; one shouted "kill that Arab." He said he was smashed in the head with a rock several times before he could flee.

Jerusalem City Councilman Meir Margalit said it appeared that "a gang of thugs," some with large knitted skullcaps and others with black skullcaps, were terrorizing East Jerusalem Arabs. He said he could not "shake the feeling that if the situation were reversed, if Jews were being attacked by Arabs, the authorities' response would be different."


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