Israeli police are on the lookout for teenagers in clown masks after a group of them struck fear among Israelis.
Police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told AFP: “Police operations are continuing in different areas to protect public places and prevent further incidents.”
He noted that many of them were already detained, revealing that about 12 youngsters, including two 14-year-olds, were arrested over the past few days.
A previous police statement said that "dozens of youngsters from all parts of the country were detained for questioning after putting masks on their faces in order to sow fear and panic among the public".
Rosenfeld said that they sought only to frighten people, not to harm them. "There haven't been any attacks. It's just been people dressed up and walking around with fake axes and fake knives," he added.
The spokesperson has, however, warned that such pranks could go horribly wrong.
"There is a concern that such pranks will be interpreted as a real threat and will cause harm to the youngsters," he said. "It is absolutely forbidden for people to take the law into their own hands and harm wearers of masks."
Local media said that a victim of an incident in the southern city of Beersheba last week stabbed his tormentor, causing moderate injuries. Police did not confirm the reports.
Media have suggested a link between the phenomenon and the recent film based on Stephen King's novel, “It”, featuring an evil clown who preys on teenagers. The Israeli police advised members of the public confronted by a masked person to ignore them.
"In these situations, move away from the scene and report it to the police as soon as possible," the official police Facebook page says.