Shock gripped the residents of Abu Ghosh on Tuesday as they discovered that unknown persons had punctured the tires of 28 vehicles and spray-painted racist graffiti in the village west of the capital.

It appeared to be one of the most brazen “price tag” incidents ever.

The graffiti included the words “Arabs go home” and “Racism or assimilation.”

Abu Ghosh has long been known for its friendly relations with its Jewish neighbors and as a popular weekend destination for Jewish and Arab families, who flock to the village’s restaurants for its legendary humous. The apparent price-tag attack met with sweeping condemnations across the political spectrum.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the vandalism as contrary to the values of Judaism. “Just this week we approved decisions that will enable us to take strong action against those who perpetrate such crimes, and we will do so with full force,” he said.

President Shimon Peres called the attack “racist behavior that constitutes the crossing of a red line.”

The president called the village’s council head Salim Jaber, who assured him that “this act done by a small group will not change the ways of the people of Abu Ghosh, who love the Jewish nation and the State of Israel.”

Police chief Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino, said police expect to make arrests soon, and that the force has made cracking such cases a top priority.

“It is impossible to downplay the severity of such incidents. The number of indictments issued against these crimes in the past year is an all-time record, but still too few and there is much work to be done,” he said.

Danino later told Army Radio that “what people don’t understand is that it’s not the spraying or the graffiti; this sort of act can spark conflict in Israel and beyond it. This is why we place this high on our list of priorities.”

David Pearl, head of the Gush Etzion Council, said he and other residents of the West Bank settlement bloc would visit the village on Wednesday morning to show solidarity with residents.

The security cabinet on Sunday voted to begin considering perpetrators of price tags as guilty of “illegal association.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said the decision “significantly expands the investigative and judicial tools available to the security forces and law enforcement authorities against socalled ‘price-tag’ actions.”

The decision came as the cabinet decided against labeling price-tag incidents terrorist attacks.

Dib Ali Uthman, a resident of Abu Ghosh, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that on Monday night there was a fight in the village between Arab youths and young Jews who came from outside. There was a disagreement and at one point the Arab youths threw rocks at the Jews, he said. He added that he thinks the price-tag vandalism was a response to this skirmish.

In 2012, police opened 623 criminal cases regarding pricetag attacks, 200 people were arrested following such incidents and 123 indictments were filed.

So far in 2013 there have been 165 cases, 76 arrests and 31 indictments, according to police.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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