Tense calm prevails in Nazareth after church attack
By JPOST.COM STAFF
A tense calm prevailed in Nazareth Friday night, hours after a Jewish man and two women who threw firecrackers in the Church of the Annunciation were evacuated from the compound by police.
The three assailants hurled firecrackers taken out of a baby carriage that they brought with them. The carriage was also reported to have contained small gas canisters. The motive behind the attack appeared to be of a personal nature and not terror-related.
Shortly after the attack, a large crowd consisting of thousands of locals gathered around the attackers, subdued and continued to attack them. Police and emergency medical teams rushed to the scene, but were barred from entering the church by the crowd. Windshields were broken on some of the ambulances.
Within about an hour, a small police force dispersed the crowd and managed to lock the man and two women in a room inside the compound. They remained there for about three hours before police were able to evacuate them.
At about 9:15 p.m. local time, the three assailants were evacuated from the church, disguised in police uniforms so that they would not be recognized, Army Radio reported. They were taken to Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera for medical treatment. Asst.-Cmdr. Yaakov Zigdon, a district police force commander, said that after the assailants received medical treatment a police interrogation would follow.
After an initial calm, the violence escalated again following the evacuation of the attackers. A police car was ignited, and an explosion of unknown origin occurred, in which one person was wounded. Police used stun grenades and tear gas against the rioting crowd. Three policeman and three locals were lightly injured.
The mayor of Nazareth also came to the church to try, together with local religious leaders, to calm the masses.
The man suspected of the attack was identified as Haim Eliyahu Havivi, a Jerusalem resident. The two women were thought to be his 40-year-old Christian wife and the couple's daughter.
It was reported that the man had made previous threats against the church since two of his children were taken away from him and handed over to foster families. He allegedly warned that he would wreak havoc, and possibly even commit suicide.
Just this week, police detained Havivi after he attempted to visit one his children. The police in Nazareth recognized the baby carriage used in Friday's attack as the same one brought by Havivi when he came to see his child.
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra commended the police, which were initially severely understaffed, for their actions prior to the arrival of reinforcements.
Inspector-General Moshe Karadi said that police would step up their presence in the area. MDA upgraded the alert level in the Gilboa district to its highest level. Ten emergency vehicles were placed on call.