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Los Angeles Police Department investigating altercation at restaurant as possible anti-Semitic hate crime

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is investigating as a hate crime an altercation Tuesday night near Hollywood where witness reports said Jewish people dining at a restaurant were targeted by a group of pro-Palestinian men driving past in vehicles.

Officers responded to an altercation outside a sushi restaurant around 9:50 p.m. on Tuesday, where five victims suffered minor injuries, LAPD Public Information Officer Jeff Lee confirmed to CNN. No arrests were made and three suspects are outstanding, Lee said. They were last seen leaving the scene in a Jeep, police said.

One of the diners who said he was involved in the altercation told CNN-affiliate KABC that he was eating outside the restaurant with four friends who are Jewish when a group of men stopped their car and began yelling.

“They were cussing at Jews, exile, everything,” he said.

The man said the group of pro-Palestinian men exited their vehicle and began attacking his friends and he attempted to fight back. Video obtained by CNN showed a number of cars driving past the restaurant that appeared to match the description provided by police with passengers waving Palestinian flags and exchanging anti-Israel slogans and swear words with people outside the restaurant.

A woman who said she was dining at the restaurant told CNN that the people in the cars began throwing bottles at them and yelled anti-Semitic slurs, including the words “dirty Jew.”

“We watched from the window as the guys sitting at the table next to us got beat up while they (the aggressors) were asking ‘who’s Jewish’ and screaming ‘dirty Jew’ and ‘Israel kills children’ and ‘death to Israel,'” she said.

Video of the incident shows a man swinging a metal stanchion at masked men wearing black and punching one of the men as they try to grab it from his hands. He is then pushed against a car where he is kicked and punched by the group of men. Police said they are aware of video of the incident.

A person who answered the phone Wednesday at Sushi Fumi, the restaurant where the alleged attack occurred, told CNN they were too busy to talk and hung up. Subsequent calls to the restaurant were not answered.

The altercation came amid days of violence between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. On Thursday, Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire, after more than a week of conflict left hundreds dead, most of them Palestinians

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said on Thursday that “it has received more reports of possible antisemitic incidents since the conflict broke out in Israel, with 193 reports in the week after the crisis began, up from 131 the previous week.”

Officials gathered at Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday afternoon to condemn the alleged attack.

“We condemn as a city and as Americans the organized anti-Semitic attack in Beverly Grove in Tuesday night and on Monday night as well,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “We will meet those incidents with a full force of law. Our police department together with our sheriff’s department, our FBI, and other partners is rightly investigating this assault as a hate crime.”

Garcetti added that these “chilling images will not be tolerated in Los Angeles and should not be tolerated anywhere.”

“This is a city of belonging, not a city of hate, and it is a city of justice and we will bring folks to justice,” he said.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said his office is ready to prosecute any appropriate hate crimes referred to his office.

“The fact that there’s violence in the Middle East, that provides absolutely no excuse for violence on the streets of Los Angeles,” said Feuer. “The thugs who perpetrated these crimes will be brought to justice.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, said it was informed of the incident and reached out to the LAPD, which quickly responded to the scene.

“Los Angeles is the 2nd city for almost every national and ethnic group in the world,” Wiesenthal associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement. “That means wherever there is a flashpoint around the world someone here feels it intensely. That is doubly true about the Gaza War for both Jews and Palestinians. With social media lit up with anti-Israel and blatant Jew-hatred 24/7, there is reason to be concerned.”

The group called on “our elected officials, law enforcement, and the media to give these concerns serious attention.”

The ADL expressed outrage over the alleged assault, and offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the attackers involved.

The nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also condemned the violence.

“As a civil rights and advocacy organization, we support everyone’s right to free speech, the right to assemble and rally in support of their respective political views. However, despite heightened tensions in Palestine and Israel, it is never acceptable for that conflict to spill over into our streets and cities,” CAIR said in a statement in response to the incident.” Violence and intimidation should be condemned, investigated, and if warranted, prosecuted.”

LAPD Deputy Chief Dominic Choi said authorities are also investigating another possible hate crime incident which occurred on Monday night.

Choi said authorities are treating both incidents as hate crimes as they are of “criminal nature” and are “motivated by hatred.”

“The LAPD and the city of Los Angeles has a zero tolerance policy for hate incidents and hate crimes,” he added.

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