Amid a drastic rise in attacks in Jerusalem, Israel Police on Monday arrested five Arab minors for allegedly taking part in the stone-throwing incident Thursday evening that seriously injured a two-year-old Israeli girl.
The suspects, residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher aged 14-17, were arrested Monday and were being interrogated by police Tuesday, Channel 2 reported. According to a police spokesman, they admitted to premeditating and carrying out the attack because of their “hatred of Jews.”
“We have five suspects in our hands,” said Superintendent Yigal Elmaliach, head of investigations in the Special Operations Squad in the Jerusalem District Police’s Central Unit. “Four of them were interrogated and admitted to the act and also implicated the others in the event. Some of them are still being questioned. We are talking about a planned attack. They met beforehand and planned to arrive in the evening in order to throw rocks. In the interrogation they said that the reason was hatred of Jews.”
According to figures released by the Shin Bet, November marked a 65% rise in terrorist attacks in Jerusalem compared to the previous month, Channel 10 reported. The security services documented 32 attacks in October, and 53 in November, of which 47 involved Molotov cocktails.
On Sunday, four other youths were released after being arrested Friday, when police determined they were not involved in the incident.
The five suspects are suspected of hurling rocks at the vehicle in which two-year-old Avigail Ben Zion was traveling with her parents in Armon Hanatziv, a predominantly Jewish Jerusalem neighborhood just over the Green Line.
According to police, the suspects planned out the attack, deciding on the exact spot earlier in the day. They reenacted the attack for police, and most did not express remorse. However, said Elmaliach, “one claimed he got caught up in the event and expressed regret.”
He added that investigators have solid evidence against the suspects.
Ben Zion, whose family was returning from a day out at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, sustained a moderate head wound from the incident. Paramedics rushed her to Hadassah Hospital in the capital’s Ein Kerem neighborhood, where doctors said she was in stable condition.
“To see your little girl with her head down and unresponsive, like she was in the ambulance, is not pleasant,” said the girl’s mother Shirin in an interview with Channel 2. She also emphasized that the rock thrown at the car was about the size of her daughter’s head.
Doctors later said that the girl suffered no internal injuries and her health was improving. Her father Assaf said Friday he had been told she would make a full recovery, and she was later released from the hospital and sent home.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat called on authorities to crack down on a recent wave of stone-throwing attacks in the city. “It’s about time we start treating a stone as a weapon,” he told Israel’s Channel 10 TV.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished Ben Zion a speedy recovery. “We will find these criminals and bring them to justice,” he said earlier.
The incident came amid a surge in the number and severity of violent attacks against Israelis on both sides of the Green Line in recent months.
Earlier in November, a couple driving along a road in the West Bank near the settlement of Tekoa were wounded, and their car was destroyed, in a Molotov-cocktail attack.
In mid-November, a Palestinian teenager stabbed 19-year-old soldier Eden Atias multiple times in the neck, killing him as he slept in the adjacent seat on a bus at the central bus station in Afula.
The assailant, 16-year-old Hussein Rawarda, had entered Israel illegally in search of work and apparently decided to carry out the deadly attack after failing to be hired by an Israeli employer.
Shortly before the stabbing, former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said the Palestinians were ripe for a “Third Intifada.” However, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that recent attacks were isolated incidents, insisting that “there is no sign of a popular uprising.”
In March, three-year-old Adele Bitton was critically injured when rocks were thrown at her mother’s car near the settlement of Ariel, causing a major accident. She was released from a Ra’anana hospital in July, after nearly two-and-a-half months of treatment in the facility’s intensive care unit.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.