• ISRAEL \ Feb 14, 2005
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    Druze teen admits spreading rumor that sparked Maghar riots
Druze teen admits spreading rumor that sparked Maghar riots
After an extensive investigation that included experts on computer-related crimes, police determined the youth had lied to his friends about the pictures, after he was angered by derogatory marks about Druze made by an unidentified man with whom he had corresponded by email.

Police seized the computers of four people who claimed to have either seen or received the pictures. An inspection revealed that the pictures were never on the computers.

The youth was held for questioning in connection with spreading false information, and police are continuing the investigation with the objective of locating additional suspects.

Police finished questioning the youth Sunday afternoon, but preferred not to make the information public due to fears of additional riots. A Northern Valleys District spokesman said the information was passed on to both Druze and Christian community leaders.

On Sunday night a large crowd of Druze gathered in the village due to a rumor that a large number of Christians were gathering in the village and the surrounding area. The Druze crowd was dispersed by community leaders.

Large police forces remained in the village Monday in order to prevent further outbreaks of violence.

The violent clashes peaked Saturday afternoon when eight residents of the village were injured, two moderately and the rest lightly. Three police officers were also lightly injured Saturday, including Northern Valleys District commander Yaakov Zigdon, who sustained a leg injury.

Northern District commander Dan Ronen called the violence "a pogrom."

A 200-strong police force patrolled the streets of the Galilee village of Maghar in the wake of violent clashes at the end of last week between Druze and Christian residents that resulted in a number of injuries and caused many Christian families to flee the community. Relative calm was restored on Saturday.

Violence between Christian and Druze youth erupted in Maghar last Thursday following rumors that Christian youths had superimposed the faces of Druze girls on photographs of naked women and posted the images on the Internet. Police have yet to come up with evidence to corroborate the rumors.

It appears that the story of the doctored photographs, whether true or not, was merely the spark that set ablaze an already tense atmosphere between Druze and Christian youth in the village. One of the reasons for the tension, apparently, is the gap between the economic situation of Maghar's Christian residents and its Druze ones, who are generally less prosperous.

Police sources say that this and other reasons are behind the events of the weekend.

Druze residents of Maghar routinely complain that despite the fact that they serve in the Israel Defense Forces, the government fails to reward the community, while the Christian youths acquire a higher education and secure good jobs.

"Apparently, they didn't torch businesses by chance," a Christian businessman said yesterday. "Someone is angry perhaps about the economic standing of the Christians. There are many educated individuals among us, free professionals and businessmen; but we are a small and weak sect. Perhaps we have no place in this country."

Meanwhile, Druze leaders from around the country convened in the village yesterday to review the situation with Likud MK Ayoub Kara, calling on the two communities "to work together to mend the rift."

According to Kara, who is Druze, "we cannot wait for the police to resolve the crisis. We must bring back the Christian residents who fled, and even put them up in Druze homes."

Christian leaders also met in the village yesterday and the heads of the two communities published a joint statement denouncing the incidents of the past few days and urging calm.

The heads of the Christian community also contacted the Vatican's embassy in Jerusalem and briefed officials there on the violence. "The Vatican has been briefed on all that has happened, and so has the Pope," said Father Elias Shakur, one of the village Christian leaders.

Meanwhile, thousands of Christians who fled Maghar due to the clashes have yet to return, fearing for their lives. Many have found refuge in the nearby village of Ilabun.

"Who can guarantee me that I can return to my home in safety?" asked one Christian resident who fled to another Galilee village. "I'll wait here until the law enforcement authorities take matters in hand and take control of the rioters."

To see some pictures from Magahr check his web site at http://usera.imagecave.com/maghar/