May 20, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal prosecutors charged a former rideshare driver in connection with an antisemitic attack on a passenger at San Francisco International Airport in 2023 that occurred weeks after the Hamas-led incursion into Israel on Oct. 7 that sparked the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

The 39-year-old man was arrested Wednesday and was in court for his initial appearance. He is charged with committing a federal hate crime and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The alleged attack occurred on Oct. 26, 2023, when federal prosecutors said the defendant approached the victim at a pickup spot and asked if they were Jewish or Israeli, saying he would not transport a Jewish or Israeli person. He then punched the victim in the face, prosecutors alleged.

The indictment did not mention whether the victim was actually Jewish or Israeli, only that the defendant perceived them to be.

The defendant’s federal public defender did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, the territory’s Health Ministry says. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in southern Israel during the Oct. 7 attack that began the war. Around 250 people were abducted, and Hamas is believed to still be holding about 100 hostages.

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