A carjacking that went awry was behind the death of an Israeli man who was found in a critical condition beside a West Bank road two weeks ago, according to new details of the case that were permitted for publication on Tuesday.
Three Palestinians from the village of Aqraba, who were arrested shortly after the incident, confessed to the crime during questioning by the Shin Bet General Security Services. Police have since reenacted the incident together with the suspects.
Avi Ben Zion, 68, died from severe head injuries sustained when he was hit by his own vehicle at the Alon Junction in the northern West Bank as the suspects made their escape.
Initial reports had speculated the attack could have been nationalistically motivated and part of a series of vehicular assaults by Palestinians against Israelis occurring at the time.
The suspects in the case are Bassam Tahir Beni Gama, 26; Ashraf Bassam Avad Alhamid Beni Jabar, 27; and Amir Juad Hamad Beni Gabar, 24. All had been arrested in the past by Israel for such crimes as car theft and being in the country without a permit
During questioning the Palestinians revealed they planned to steal a car by deliberately bumping into the back of another vehicle and then pepper-spraying the driver when he got out to check the damage. As the victim struggled with the effects of the spray the attackers would steal his car.
The Palestinians said that on December 1 they hit Ben Zion’s car as planned and then sprayed him in the face. As Ben Zion collapsed to the ground, one of their number jumped into his car and tried to turn it around to leave the scene. During the maneuver he ran over Ben Zion, who was writhing on the ground.
The suspects then drove to Qabalan where they sold the car for spare parts. Security forces investigating the incident arrested them in the village, near Nablus, shortly afterwards.
Investigators were initially unsure if the event was an attempted robbery or a terror attack, and said that both possibilities were being investigated.
Ben Zion’s daughter Revital told Channel 10 News at the time she believed the incident was a terrorist attack. She claimed that if her father were being robbed, he would have calmly handed over his vehicle and wallet to the thieves, leaving the perpetrators with no reason to attack him.
“We aren’t experts, but the nature of his injuries looks as if he was hit with a blunt object. Anyone just trying to steal a car would not leave someone in critical condition,” she said in the interview.
Shortly after his death, Beilinson Hospital announced that the family intended to donate Ben Zion’s organs.