Fifteen members of an extremist Jewish organisation have been arrested for allegedly assaulting and harassing Arab men who date Jewish women.
Police arrested the leader of the Lehave, Bentzi Gopstein, and 14 others yesterday from their homes in Israel and the occupied West Bank.
In their statement confirming the arrests, the police said: "Fifteen suspects known to the police as active in the Lehava organisation were arrested or detained for questioning during the night as part of a police investigation on suspicion that they acted to locate and threaten (Arab) minority members with connections to Jewish young women or girls."
Five of the 15 suspects have been taken for remand hearings.
The leader of the Israeli group, which campaigns for "the prevention of assimilation in the Holy Lands" was arrested on numerous occasions for inciting hatred towards Arabs and Christians, including for writing an article in which he accused Christians of being bloodsuckers.
In April, six Israelis, including two soldiers, were arrested for racist attacks against Arabs with knives. Police said they were influenced by a Lehava video.
In 2015, the police questioned Gopstein after he condoned torching churches in Israel, in accordance with a medieval Jewish commandment to destroy places of idol-worship. In 2014 he was arrested after members of his group tried to burn down an Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem.
Following his arrest yesterday Gopstein's lawyer said his clients was being targeted due to "leftist extremists and Reform Jews" exerting pressure on the police. Gopstein himself described the arrest as "nonsense" while speaking to journalists saying he did nothing wrong in wanting to prevent Jewish women from dating Arab men.
Generally, marriage between Palestinians and Jews is frowned upon in Israel. There are strict laws that prevent religions and cultures from mixing. As the state does not recognise civil marriage, Jews in Israel can only be married in a religious ceremony, by an Orthodox rabbi under the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, which means that there are no recognised interfaith marriages between Jews and non-Jews within Israel.