14 arrested over attack on driver who then fatally rammed man at Jerusalem riot

Police say 5 of those detained are minors and investigation is ongoing into alleged assault on Arab driver Ibrahim Hamed that led to him plowing minibus into Itamar Ben Abu

Ibrahim Hamed, the driver accused of running over a man last night in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem arrives to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court for a court hearing on March 1, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ibrahim Hamed, the driver accused of running over a man last night in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem arrives to the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court for a court hearing on March 1, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police said Thursday that 14 people, five of them minors, were arrested over an attack on a driver who hit and killed a man while trying to flee, as well as other violence at a Jerusalem protest earlier in the week.

Ibrahim Hamed said he was assaulted by a group of protesters in an anti-Arab attack and was attempting to escape when he plowed his vehicle on Sunday night into Itamar Ben Abu, 47 in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

Police said they carried out raids on Thursday morning in connection with the investigation into the ramming that killed Ben Abu and the violence that proceeded it.

In a statement, police said the probe was ongoing, with the aim of finding others who took part in the violence, noting that all of those detained were “actively involved.”

Police said two of the detainees were suspected of attacking an ambulance while it was transporting a woman in labor to the hospital.

Screen grab from video depicting the detention of 12 individuals in connection with violence at a Jerusalem protest including an alleged attack on an Arab driver that led to the fatal ramming of a man, March 4, 2021 (Israel Police)

Hamed is facing manslaughter charges, despite ostensibly being a victim of racially motivated violence himself. Security camera footage showed him fleeing into a store after the incident and pleading for help.

He was released from police custody on Tuesday, telling Channel 13 news: “The death of Itamar Ben Abu breaks my heart.”

He said afterwards: “Everyone came at me and started smashing the vehicle while I was in it. They attacked me, threw rockets at me, and I was injured.”

Hamed said the crowd was motivated by racism.

Ibrahim Hamed, the driver who was accused of running over a man in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, outside the traffic police headquarter after he was released from custody, March 2, 2021, in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“When I came to the road, they started attacking me and throwing rocks at me because I’m an Arab,” Hamed told police investigators, according to Channel 13. “They wanted to kill me because I’m Arab.”

Some witness reports said the driver had been attacked by the crowd and was attempting to flee when he plowed into the demonstrator.

At the time of the incident, dozens of protesters were blocking traffic and hurling bottles at vehicles in a rally against coronavirus lockdown rules.

Graphic video from the scene showed a raucous crowd surrounding a white minibus, which lurched forward suddenly with one door half-open, slamming a man into another vehicle and crushing him against it.

A sign under the minibus’s windshield appeared to identify it as a medical vehicle in the service of a hospital. Footage before the incident appeared to show another ambulance surrounded by members of the crowd who were throwing stones and attacking the vehicle.

Ben Abu’s family has said that they do not blame Hamed for the death, but rather the rioters.

Itamar Ben Abu, 47, was killed after a driver plowed into a crowd in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood on February 28, 2021. (courtesy)

“These people call themselves yeshiva students?” Ben Abu’s father, Albert, told Channel 13 news on Tuesday, adding that the mob was motivated by ignorance.

Ben Abu and his family said his son was not part of the mob and had been trying to calm the situation.

“He just ran into a terrible situation and paid for it with his life. He only wanted to help, he wasn’t connected to anything going on. He really never wanted to do a bad thing to anyone,” Itamar Ben Abu’s sister said.

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