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Hate crime charges filed against man who allegedly assaulted Long Island homeowner after stealing pro-Israeli flags

Hate crime charges filed after pro-Israel flags stolen from Long Island home
Hate crime charges filed after pro-Israel flags stolen from Long Island home 02:24

HEWLETT, N.Y. -- Hate crime charges have been filed in Nassau County against a man who allegedly ripped down two pro-Israel flags from a Hewlett home, then assaulted the homeowner when he demanded them back.

Officials say he is an asylum seeker who recently entered the country illegally.

Support for Israel is on display in Hewlett. Aleks Binyaminov proudly hung a combination Israeli and American flag and "We stand with Israel" sign after his wife's cousin was murdered by Hamas on Oct. 7.

On Sunday, his security cameras alerted him of a man walking up his driveway, then walking off with his flags. Binyaminov hopped on his child's bicycle to get them back.

"I tried to pull off the flags from his hands. He punched me in my face ... put me in a chokehold ... Yelling, 'Palestine, Palestine,'" Binyaminov said. "He was saying, 'I'm from Palestine. You Jews are killing Palestinians.'"

When Binyaminov could no longer fight back, the man stomped on the flags and took them, making an obscene gesture, as seen on video.

Nassau County Police arrested 26-year-old Bechir Lehbeib, who they say crossed the border illegally into Arizona in November and was staying in a migrant shelter on Staten Island. Lehbeib told police he is from North Africa and was came to Hewlett by bus to look for a job.

"Well, people who look for work don't usually do that in a residential area, and then rip down people's flag and signs," Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said.

Nassau County leaders say it's a hate crime that will be vigorously prosecuted.

"Hate crimes have no place in Nassau County," Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly said.

Blakeman compared it to the recent assault on NYPD officers in Times Square.

"They spit on our flag, they trample on our values and they commit crimes, and they do so at taxpayer expense," he said.

An immigrant himself from Russia, Binyaminov says he is traumatized.

"People that coming in should be vetted carefully," he said. "I never thought this would happen with me. As a Jew, we live here, all of us, happily without any problems. It feels a little bit disgusting that this happened to us."

The Nassau DA says her office is also reviewing other recent local hate crime cases to see if there is any connection to this defendant.

The alleged attacker pled not guilty to hate crime, robbery and assault charges. He was ordered held on $50,000 bail and had to surrender his passport.

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