Supporters of anti-immigration right-wing movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) rally in Cologne.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Two Israeli Arab medical students were beaten in Dresden on Monday by six locals who heard them speaking Arabic, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
According to the two students, who turned for assistance to the Israeli embassy in Berlin, they were punched, cursed and told to leave Germany by the attackers. The two students called the police, who opened an investigation but, according to the Foreign Ministry, the police are having difficult locating the assailants on the basis of the descriptions given.
Germany's anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant sentiment has grown significantly in recent months.
Also on Tuesday, 200 masked right-wing supporters, carrying placards with racist overtones, went on a rampage in the eastern city of Leipzig, throwing fireworks, breaking windows and vandalizing buildings, police said.
The attacks have deepened public skepticism towards Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door refugee policy and her mantra that Germany can cope with the 1.1 million migrants who arrived in the country last year. It has also fueled right-wing groups.
As roughly 2,000 anti-Muslim "LEGIDA" protesters marched peacefully in the city center, police said a separate group of 211 people walked through the the southern Connewitz district before setting of fireworks, erecting barricades and vandalizing property. The top floor of one building caught fire.
The group carried a placard reading "Leipzig bleibt Helle", or "Leipzig stays light", an apparent reference to the skin color of residents.
"The 211 people were to a not insignificant degree already on record as being right-wing sympathizers and or members of violent sporting groups," said police, adding officers brought the situation under control relatively quickly.
At the LEGIDA protest, people shouted "Merkel must go" and held placards showing the chancellor in a Muslim veil and reading "Merkel, take your Muslims with you and get lost".
With the number of migrants arriving in Europe's biggest economy set to rise further this year, Merkel is under growing pressure to toughen her line on refugees.
In October, the German anti-Islam movement PEGIDA staged a large protest in Dresden against the government's decision to take in hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East.
"What seems to be worrying a lot of people now is that people from different cultures are coming here," said Thomas Jaeger, political scientist at Cologne University. "They don't know how they will integrate, and that's quite a diffuse fear, and that's now being exploited by some political forces."Reuters contributed to this report.