Further violence feared as neo-Nazi gang is sentenced
Members of the extremist gang handed prison terms this week, pictured during a court hearing last year
Dozens of neo-Nazis may still be active in Israel, police officers warned this week, after a Tel Aviv court sent eight Jewish teenagers to prison for establishing an extremist cell and carrying out a series of xenophobic and antisemitic attacks across the country.
Members of the group, called the Petah Tikvah Gang, received sentences ranging between one and seven years. Judge Zvi Gurfinkel called the teenagers' crimes "shocking and horrifying" and said that his harsh sentences were aimed at deterring additional youth from joining such gangs in the future.
The gang members were convicted on charges that included aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit a crime, possession of racist publications and publication of material likely to incite racism.
The group was behind a series of attacks against strictly-Orthodox Jews, black and gay people and foreign workers, some while shouting "Heil Hitler".
In one case, five members of the group came to Tel Aviv, where one of them punched an Asian migrant worker in the face as he was talking on a cellular phone, while the others filmed the incident. In another case, the group attacked two Asian foreign workers, smashing glass bottles over their heads.
The group also painted swastikas on the doors of a Haifa synagogue and posted their activities on a website with clips of Adolf Hitler and Nazi salutes. Several members of the gang had Nazi tattoos on their arms.
"These cases remind us of dark and frightening times like Kristallnacht," Mr Gurfinkel wrote in his decision. "No citizen in Israel can come to terms with such a phenomenon, and as a result it is impossible to go easy on the defendants."
The defence lawyers said they planned to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court and ask for lighter sentences which would enable their clients to rehabilitate themselves.
Police said it was likely that dozens more youths with similar backgrounds - immigrants from the former Soviet Union - were in Israel and engaged in similar antisemitic and neo-Nazi activities.
About a million immigrants from Russia and other former Soviet states have moved to Israel since the early 1990s and some have had difficulty acclimatising to Israeli society.
Police said that it was likely that additional gangs were active in urban areas such as Haifa and Beersheba, where there are large FSU populations. Police said that there are also a number of neo-Nazi websites active in Israel.
"We are working on finding them," Police chief Insp-Gen Dudi Cohen said.