JERUSALEM (Feb. 24)
The second time within a week, an attempt was made to set fire to a Jewish religious institute in East Jerusalem. The arson attempt was made Friday night at the Habad Synagogue in the Jewish quarter in the Old City, causing only minor damage with no one hurt. Last Sunday a similar attempt was made on a Jewish bookstore, a few blocks from the synagogue. In both cases kerosene was spilled under an iron gate at the entrance, and then lit. In both cases the fire was discovered shortly after by passersby and neighbors, and extinguished before it could do serious damage.
Police arrested several East Jerusalem residents in both cases, but the similarity in the manner of both arson attempts may indicate that the actual arsonists are still at large. Police increased recently surveillance in the Old City, after Jewish quarter residents complained that security measures were lacking. The current arson cases began two weeks ago when three Christian religious institutions in West Jerusalem were set on fire, but it is not clear whether the fire at the Jewish institutions was meant to be a reprisal, officials said.
Another indication of some unrest in East Jerusalem was the arrest of 11 East Jerusalem men and one woman near the weekend on suspicion of taking part in a hostile organization and distribution of illegal leaflets. The group–most of its members young intellectuals–teachers, college and high school students and one poet–was mainly suspected of distributing leaflets urging East Jerusalem residents not to vote in the municipal elections on Dec. 31. At the first stage of investigation it did not appear that the group was suspected of any actual hostile acts, such as sabotage, police said.
Police meanwhile are stymied in the investigation of the disappearance of “Alfajr” newspaper publisher, Yusef Nassri Nassr. The 35-year-old publisher disappeared from his East Jerusalem home two-and-a-half weeks ago, and no word has been heard from him since. Police have concentrated their efforts on the possibility of a political kidnapping, but although dozens of East Jerusalem and West Bank residents have been interrogated, no indication has been found about the fate of the missing journalist.