Three New York girls have been sought in connection with a spate of attacks on young Jewish children in the Bronx, prosecutors said.
The attacks, which began in June, are believed to have been committed by the same teen girls – two 15-year-olds and a 13-year-old. The women are from the Parkchester neighborhood, prosecutors said.
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At least nine girls under 13 reported being the target of the attacks, and several of the incidents have occurred in the courtyard of a Beth Jacob Day School of the Bronx building, according to court documents.
Some of the children were punched and kicked, while others were struck with a metal pipe, according to prosecutors.
The attacks, which are presumed to be racially motivated, have been ongoing since 20 June, according to the district attorney. At least one of the attacks involved metal pens, which prosecutors said contained a message and a bull’s-eye.
“These young women are evil,” Steven Reed, a district attorney for the Bronx, said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Asked by reporters why he believed the assaults were racially motivated, Reed said: “I don’t have a single reason why it would be that way. I would imagine it had to do with the fact that there is a heightened level of anxiety around the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
Asked if the attacks had anything to do with heightened anxiety around the conflict, Rabbi Mendel Kupfer said he was not certain, adding: “Sometimes when you get into a battle of ideas and people are not agreeing or comfortable, you may get into acts of violence.”
Asked about the reaction among local Jews, Kupfer said: “If you walk around, you don’t hear a lot of concern. You just tend to go on with your life.”
The teens were last seen running north on their way to a nearby park, officials said.
Investigators have reviewed various security video and are interviewing several suspects, according to the prosecutor’s office. The case has been assigned to the Bronx’s elite Bronx county attorney’s office, which routinely prosecutes cases of hate crimes against Jewish people.
If convicted, the teens could face jail time.
District attorney Reed said: “This type of violence goes beyond schoolyard pugilism. In its worst version, this could become an all-out war between races. We don’t want that.”
The suspects had disappeared and the city was on a “heightened state of vigilance” in the wake of the attacks, he said. The city’s police commissioner, William Bratton, has said anti-Semitic rhetoric had apparently fueled the attacks.