Army nabs ambulance driver who allegedly blocked Israeli’s escape from riot
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Army nabs ambulance driver who allegedly blocked Israeli’s escape from riot

IDF, Shin Bet seize ambulance, bus that brought in protesters, arrest another Palestinian suspected of attacking settler's car near Hawara

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF arrests an ambulance driver, impounds his vehicle in the northern West Bank on May 19, 2017. The ambulance blocked the escape of an Israeli man who came under attack by a mob during a protest in the village of Hawara, outside Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF arrests an ambulance driver, impounds his vehicle in the northern West Bank on May 19, 2017. The ambulance blocked the escape of an Israeli man who came under attack by a mob during a protest in the village of Hawara, outside Nablus. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The army and Shin Bet security service arrested on Friday the driver of an ambulance that blocked the escape of an Israeli man whose car was attacked by rioters in the northern West Bank the day before, the military said.

Between Thursday night and Friday morning, security forces also picked up one of the suspected rioters and impounded a bus that is believed to have been used to shuttle people to the violent protest in Hawara, outside Nablus, the army said.

The ambulance that blocked the road was seized by the Israeli military as well.

On Thursday, as an Israeli resident of a nearby settlement drove through the demonstration, the protesters turned violent, swarming around his car, kicking it and pelting it with stones.

Palestinian protesters attack a car reportedly driven by an Israeli settler as it attempts to cross a crowd of demonstrators near the Hawara military checkpoint in the northern West Bank on May 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Palestinian protesters attack a car reportedly driven by an Israeli settler as it attempts to cross a crowd of demonstrators near the Hawara military checkpoint in the northern West Bank on May 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Video footage from the scene shows that the man tried to escape through the crowd, but his way was blocked by the ambulance, which crossed into his lane. The settler later claimed that the medics had deliberately tried to bar his passage.

فيديو آخر لجريمة المستوطن الذي قتل الشهيد معتز بني شمسة خلال تظاهرة مناصرة للأسرى بحوارة جنوب نابلس.

Posted by ‎Ramallah News – رام الله الإخباري‎ on Thursday, 18 May 2017

During the attack on his vehicle, the Israeli opened fire with his handgun at the crowd, hitting two people, killing one of them and lightly injuring a second, a journalist.

A military jeep pulled up seconds after the man’s car came under attack, and the soldiers inside it quickly dispersed the crowd with tear gas and other riot dispersal means.

According to a military spokesperson, “hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at passing vehicles” during the violent demonstration.

Some of the Palestinians who participated in the riot had been brought to the area on organized buses, like the one that was seized early Friday morning, the army said.

IDF impounds a bus, which was used to ferry people to a violent protest in the village of Hawara, outside Nablus, on May 19, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF impounds a bus, which was used to ferry people to a violent protest in the village of Hawara, outside Nablus, on May 19, 2017. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Afterwards, the Israeli driver, a father of eight who lives in the settlement of Itamar, told Channel 2 news that the Palestinians “almost lynched” him. “Thank God I managed to get out of there… I looked death in the eyes,” he said.

The driver was questioned in a police station on Thursday afternoon over the incident. Police said he was not under arrest, but was being asked to verify accounts provided by some of the journalists at the scene.

A wounded Palestinian journalist reacts next to the body of a man who according to Palestinian officials was killed by Israeli settlers during clashes near the Hawara military checkpoint in the northern West Bank on May 18, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)
A wounded Palestinian journalist reacts next to the body of a man who according to Palestinian officials was killed by Israeli settlers during clashes near the Hawara military checkpoint in the northern West Bank on May 18, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / JAAFAR ASHTIYEH)

The protest was held in support of hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails on hunger strike since April 17. A spokesperson for the Samaria Regional Council said in a statement that it was the third day in a row of riots along the highway near Hawara.

The Palestinian man killed in the incident was identified by the Palestinian Health Ministry as 23-year-old Muataz Hussain Tayeh, of Beita outside Nablus.

The photographer was identified by the Associated Press as Majdi Mohammed. The AP said in a statement: “We are awaiting further details on his condition and the events leading up to the shooting. AP urges a full investigation into the incident.”

A video posted to social media shows the lead-up to and aftermath of the shooting. A group of Palestinians can be seen protesting with signs and flags, then surrounding the man’s vehicle and attacking the car, which is blocked by an ambulance.

#شاهد : اللحظات الاولى لاستشهاد الشاب معتز حسين هلال بني شمسة (23 عاماً) من بلدة بيتا شرق نابلستصوير : بال ميديا

Posted by ‎Ramallah News – رام الله الإخباري‎ on Thursday, 18 May 2017

A short while after the shooting, a group of Israeli settlers handed out candy bars to IDF soldiers near Hawara. The candy bars were of the same brand that Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader serving a life sentence for orchestrating terror attacks, was caught on film eating while ostensibly on the hunger strike.

The spokesperson for the Samaria Regional Council said the Israeli man was on his way home from the grocery store when his car was attacked.

He was identified as a resident of the Itamar settlement, located southeast of Nablus.

The smashed windshield of an Israeli settler's car attacked by Palestinian stone-throwers in Hawara, in the West Bank, on May 18, 2017 (Ynet screenshot)
The smashed windshield of an Israeli settler’s car attacked by Palestinian stone-throwers in Hawara, in the West Bank, on May 18, 2017 (Ynet screenshot)

A video of the damage to the man’s car shows the smashed windshield and dents along the door, apparently from thrown rocks.

“They are blocking the road that goes from the Gav Hahar settlements to the center of the country. They throw rocks at cars full of families and children,” the spokesperson said.

The Gav Hahar settlements — Yitzhar, Alon Moreh, Har Bracha and Itamar — are located in the northern West Bank, near Nablus.

The head of the Samaria Regional Council, Yossi Dagan, said he “totally supports the resident who defended his life and the lives of those around him against attackers.”

An Israeli car that was attacked by Palestinian rock throwers on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in the West Bank village of Hawara (Regavim)
An Israeli car that was attacked by Palestinian rock throwers on Thursday, May 18, 2017, in the West Bank village of Hawara (Regavim)

Another incident occurred on Wednesday near the Palestinian town of Silwad, in the central West Bank.

An Israeli shot and moderately wounded a Palestinian who threw stones at his car as he drove along a road near the town.

Police detained the shooter and a passenger who was in the car with him, but they were later released after their attorney, far-right activist Itamar Ben Gvir, argued that they opened fire in self-defense because they were attacked with rocks. Police also detained the Palestinian.

Jacob Magid, Dov Lieber and AFP contributed to this report.

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