Nine Jewish young people were arrested in Jerusalem on suspicion of perpetrating a series of serious attacks on Arab youth in the city’s hangout areas over the past few weeks, Jerusalem police announced on Tuesday.

The youths, most of whom are aged 14-19 and are residents of Jerusalem or the surrounding suburbs, are accused of gathering on Thursday nights, identifying Arabs and attacking them with stones, glass bottles and pepper spray. The attacks have gone on for a number of weeks. In a few instances, the victims were hospitalized with serious injuries, including one victim who was hospitalized for four days.

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The central suspect in the investigation is 14 years old, and the oldest two suspects are 20 and 25. According to police investigations, the “gang” would coordinate meeting places via cellphones and Facebook to carry out the attacks.

The group included a 14-year-old Jewish girl who would allegedly help the group identify which Arabs to attack, by going up to people in the parks around downtown Jerusalem and asking for cigarettes so she could determine, by their accents, whether they were Arab or not. She would then allegedly invite them to take a walk with her to an arranged place, where the rest of the youth would be waiting to pelt the victim with rocks and bottles.

Central Jerusalem Police head Lt.- Cmdr. Haim Shmueli, whose branch oversaw the investigation, briefed the media on the arrests during a press conference Tuesday.

Police believe this was a group of friends who formed their own gang to carry out attacks on Arabs, and was not part of a nationalistic right-wing cause, nor in response to any recent events, including two Arab men’s alleged stabbing of two women hiking near Mata on Saturday.

The victims were usually east Jerusalem residents, police said. They would not confirm whether the early November attack on a Chilean tourist who was mistaken for an Arab was connected to this group. Police arrested eight people in connection with the attack in November.

The attackers roamed around areas in downtown Jerusalem that are popular hang-out spots and full of young people on Thursday nights.

Police recounted one instance in which the youths were in the middle of an attack when they questioned whether the victim was, in fact, Arab. They demanded to see his identity card, and after determining that he was Arab, they continued beating him.

Police declined to say exactly how many Arab victims had been attacked by the gang. An investigation is ongoing.

All of the suspects were released to house arrest until January 1.

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