FACTBOX: Facts about Acre and Arabs in Israel

Mon Oct 13, 2008 1:08pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Here are brief facts about the city of Acre, whose image as a model of co-existence between Jews and Arabs in Israel has been shattered by five days of violence.

* Of 53,000 people living in Acre, the city's website says about 28 percent are Arabs. In Israel as a whole, 1.5 million out of 7.3 million citizens -- just over a fifth -- are Arabs. They share roots, and in most cases the Muslim faith, with 4 million Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and 2.8 million living abroad as refugees since the war of 1948 that created the state of Israel.

* A city has existed near the Mediterranean coastal site of modern-day Acre, located at the northern end of Haifa Bay, for the past 4,000 years. Its old, walled port area is inhabited mainly by Arabs, while Jews dominate in Acre's modern suburbs.

* The Crusaders captured the city from its Arab rulers in the 12th century, naming it Saint-Jean d'Acre and making it the capital of their Kingdom of Jerusalem and a main trading center before it was all but destroyed by the Mamelukes in 1291.

* Restored in the 18th century by a local Ottoman strongman known as Ahmed Pasha "the Butcher," whose building works form the heart of the picturesque Old City and harbor, the port was contested by the French and British navies during the Napoleonic wars.

* Acre's citadel was long a prison, housing Baha'ullah, the Persian founder of the Baha'i faith, during Ottoman Turkish rule in the 19th century and later Arabs and Jews jailed by British forces who ran Palestine in 1917-48. Tourists can view the gallows room and memorials to Jewish fighters hanged there.

* Israeli forces captured Acre in 1948 along with some 78 percent of what had been British-ruled Palestine. As with other parts of the Galilee region in the north, however, Arabs stayed or returned in substantial numbers -- unlike other parts of what is now Israel, from which Arabs were driven or fled. Israel says its Arab citizens have full, equal rights. Arabic is an official language, alongside Hebrew. But many Arabs, who do not serve in Israel's large conscript army, complain of discrimination.

(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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