Israeli extremists detained over 'racist' Jewish-Arab marriage prevention campaign
Benzi Gopstein, a prominent leader of the Israeli extreme-right group Lehava was among those arrested in raids carried out simultaneously at addresses in Jerusalem, northern and southern Israel and in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, 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," a police statement said.
Five of the suspects were later taken for remand hearings.
Gopstein, who spoke to reporters at his hearing in Jerusalem magistrates' court, said he was arrested for telling a Jewish woman that she should not date an Arab man, insisting he did no wrong and describing the ordeal as "nonsense".
Lehava opposes inter-marriage between Jews and Arabs, and in August 2014, its activists staged a rally where racist slogans, including "Death to Arabs!", were shouted at the wedding near Tel Aviv of a Muslim man and Jewish woman.
In April, six Israelis, including two soldiers, were arrested for racist attacks against Arabs with knives and other weapons and charged with "terrorist" offences.
Police said they were influenced by a Lehava video.
Gopstein was also questioned by police in 2015 after he condoned torching churches in Israel, in accordance with a medieval Jewish commandment to destroy places of idol-worship.
The police statement said that the latest arrests were the result of an undercover investigation.
"It uncovered organised and pre-meditated activity believed to have been carried out by the suspects, known members of Lehava," it said.
Agencies contributed to this report.