Dec. 24--HOLLYWOOD -- They weren't there for money or merchandise, but to destroy.
Hollywood police say a pair of hooded suspects are behind three overnight blazes at the same shopping plaza within two years, officials said.
In all, four businesses have been destroyed since December 2011 at the Emerald Center plaza, located in a heavily Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.
Police stop short of calling the incidents hate crimes, mainly because indisputable signs, such as a spray-painted message, were never left behind.
On Monday, police returned to the scene to re-enact what two arsonists did on Sept. 29. The pair destroyed two adjacent restaurants at the plaza in the 5600 block of Stirling Road.
Unlike the previous fires, no video of the latest incidents was available.
As local news cameras rolled, two Hollywood officers "smashed" through the windows of the charred businesses and tossed in fake Molotov cocktails before running away.
Police conducted the re-enactment in the hopes of generating more leads in the case.
"It's intentional, we know that. The motive is what we don't know," said Hollywood police spokesman Lt. Osvaldo Perez. "We don't know if they are doing this for fun, for a thrill, or if they have any underlying motive."
The recent fires gutted Achla Pita Grill and Bon Ami Cafe, each owned by Ilan Timianski. He was at the scene Monday but declined to comment. It's the second time Timianski's pita grill has been torched.
On September 7, 2012, two people, who wore hoodies and ski masks to conceal their faces, unsuccessfully tried to break into Achla Bon Ami, a sushi restaurant adjacent to the pita grill. The arsonists then broke into Achla Pita Grill, where they set fire to the kitchen.
One arsonist is seen on surveillance footage leaping away from the fire at the kosher restaurant as it quickly spreads.
On Dec.1, 2011, Michael Katz, owner of the Holyland Judaica store, saw his business burned out by an arson fire. Surveillance video in the Judaica fire showed two men walking in the alley behind the store seconds after flames broke out.
Katz has since moved his store to another location in the plaza and doesn't believe anti-Semitism is behind the arsons.
"All of them were after a restaurant," he said. "I think they were targeting another restaurant and hit my place by mistake. Maybe it's competition, I don't know."
Police ask anyone with information about the arson to call Hollywood police at 954-967-4411 or Broward Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 954-493-8477. A reward of up to $3,000 is available.
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