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Ultra-Orthodox Jews riot over mom’s arrest

Image: Police arrest an ultra-Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem
Israeli border policemen arrest an ultra-Orthodox Jew during a protest in Jerusalem on Thursday.Ahmad Gharabli / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with police using horses and water cannon in Jerusalem Thursday in the third day of rioting over the arrest of a mentally ill Hasidic woman who authorities say was starving her child.

The clashes are the latest sign of increasing tensions between authorities, who allege the woman starved her 3-year-old son over a period of several years, and the insular ultra-Orthodox community that often resents outside interference in its affairs. The child is currently hospitalized.

Media reports say the woman is believed to be suffering from a condition known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy in which a person deliberately makes another sick. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that was a possibility that police were examining.

Tensions between authorities and ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up a third of Jerusalem's residents, have been high in recent months since voters replaced an ultra-Orthodox mayor with a secular candidate in a November election.

In recent weeks, ultra-Orthodox Jews and authorities have clashed repeatedly over a plan by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to open a municipal parking lot on the Sabbath. Ultra-Orthodox Jews oppose the idea because driving is forbidden on the Sabbath, saying the move would violate the city's religious status quo.

In the wake of this week's disturbances, City Hall has cut off municipal services to some ultra-Orthodox areas, saying it can't guarantee the safety of its workers.

Emaciated child
Rosenfeld said Thursday that 28 protesters were arrested overnight and one officer was lightly wounded. The protesters burned dozens of trash cans and garbage was strewn across city streets.

Police used horses and a water cannon to control the protests. On Thursday, protesters demonstrated outside the hospital where the 3-year-old is being treated. The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot published a photograph of the emaciated child and reported that his weight was currently 15 pounds.

The woman, who has not been identified, is in police custody. Authorities say they have video footage showing her disconnecting him repeatedly from a feeding tube at the hospital.

The woman claims the child is sick and that she is not responsible for his condition, a position accepted by many of those protesting her arrest.

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