In a case that sent shock waves through Israeli society, police in September announced the arrests of a group of young neo-Nazis who allegedly attacked foreign workers from Asia, religious Jews, gay men and lesbians, the homeless and drug addicts.
The eight suspects, Russian immigrants in their late teens or early 20s, were accused of at least 15 attacks. Videotapes of many of them, seized by police in the central Israeli town of Petah Tikva, showed victims lying on bloody floors as they were beaten and, in one case, a man being smashed in the head with a bottle. The films were shown on several Israeli TV channels amid general disbelief.
The police also seized explosives, spiked balls, knives and other weapons, along with a photo showing a suspect holding an M-16 rifle in one hand and a sign reading "Heil Hitler" in the other. In court later, several suspects displayed tattoos of the number 88, neo-Nazi shorthand for the same slogan. Others had tattoos of Celtic crosses, a symbol popular among many white supremacists, and barbed wire.
The neo-Nazi skinhead ring was uncovered by police investigating the desecration of two synagogues in Petah Tikva. Officials said that the group at one point had also talked about planning a murder, but offered no further details.
The suspects, along with a ninth who fled the country, all came to Israel as part of a wave of Russian immigrants who arrived in the late 1980s and 1990s. The immigrants, who now make up about 1 million of Israel's population of just over 7 million people, came under Israeli laws that allow people to claim automatic Israeli citizenship if a parent or grandparent has Jewish roots. Many Russians are believed to have used distant connections to Judaism to escape poverty at home.
The neo-Nazis' leader was identified as Eli Boanitov, 19, who police said is known as "Eli the Nazi." Boanitov allegedly told police that he was and would remain a Nazi. "Until we kill them all, I will not rest," he told officials.