Riots by Haredi extremists cause damage to Jerusalem light rail construction

Ultra-Orthodox extremists reportedly caused millions of shekels in damage to the Jerusalem light rail during recent protests against a planned new route for the train.

Haredi extremists have been staging protests for months against efforts to expand light rail in the capital, but they have intensified in recent weeks and turned violent in many cases. An extremist minority in the ultra-Orthodox community opposes the light rail passing through their neighborhoods, believing it will lead to unwanted intrusions from the outside world.

The Jerusalem Municipality recently announced that it would close the Bar Ilan Junction, which is in a predominantly Haredi neighborhood, for construction work to establish an underground train station at the site. Rioting videos from Wednesday night showed haredi extremists disrupting work by sitting in holes dug as part of construction work and refusing to budge, with some seen praying.

Other videos from recent days show rioters throwing rocks at construction workers, climbing and setting tractors and other heavy machinery on fire and damaging infrastructure.

Reacting to images of chaos and violence in the capital, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said the situation was “intolerable”.

“The vandalism and violence by a group of Haredim in the Bar Ilan neighborhood of Jerusalem is simply intolerable,” he tweeted. “These hundreds of rioters are disrupting public order and damaging equipment worth millions – delaying the opening of the new light rail line in Jerusalem.”

In a recent incident, participants attacked an Arab worker with an ax and a second employee had his leg broken and was shot by an air rifle, Channel 12 reported.

At the same time, haredi media reported on violent incidents directed by Arab workers against haredi protesters. According to a report published Thursday by haredi news outlet Kikar HaShabbat, a haredi man was threatened and physically assaulted by two Arab security guards at the Bar Ilan Junction.

In an attempt to deal with the phenomenon, the Moriah Jerusalem Development Corporation, which is leading the light rail construction project in Jerusalem, has begun filing civil lawsuits against those involved in the riots.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, six civil lawsuits have been filed so far against those believed to be the ringleaders of the riots. Each lawsuit seeks NIS 300,000 ($86,000) in compensation for damages caused.

“One cannot understand the malevolent intentions driving this ‘group of rioters’ until one realizes that the accused and his friends are motivated by criminal intent and extortion intended to create advantage personal and hidden for the leaders of the group,” wrote Moriah’s legal counsel. in a court case.

According to Kan, some of the rioters don’t even live in Jerusalem but travel to the capital just to take part in the protests.

Meanwhile, police deployed riot control measures, including water cannons, to try to break up violent protests.

“The Israel Police will continue to allow freedom of demonstration in accordance with the law, but will not tolerate violent riots, vandalism and violations of public order,” a police statement read.

Construction work on Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem was originally scheduled to take two years, but is expected to be delayed for up to a year due to ongoing disruptions.

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