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'Arab, Arab! Here's another one,' rioter shouted at scene

3 charged for attacking driver who then fatally rammed man during Jerusalem riot

Teens allegedly hurled stones at minibus after identifying driver as an Arab; suspects avoid manslaughter charge even though their actions caused victim to plow into bystander

Police at the scene where a man was injured after being hit by a car in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem on February 28, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Police at the scene where a man was injured after being hit by a car in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem on February 28, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office on Sunday filed charges against three Haredi teenagers for a racially motivated attack against an Arab driver in Jerusalem last month that allegedly led the victim to run over a bystander while trying to flee the scene.

Shimon Natan Sheetrit, 19, Yitzhak Sabro, 18, and a 17-year-old suspect who was not named as he is a minor were charged with participating in a riot, hurling stones at a public transit vehicle, racially motivated assault and attempted aggravated assault of a police officer, along with other offenses.

The prosecution asked the Jerusalem District Court to extend the remands of all three suspects until the end of the proceedings against them. The three were among 14 people arrested earlier this month for the attack on Ibrahim Hamed, who, while trying to flee, plowed his vehicle into Itamar Ben Abu, 47 in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Mea Shearim.

Though their actions resulted in Ben Abu’s death, none of the suspects was charged with manslaughter.

According to the indictment, dozens of Mea Shearim residents congregated in the streets while celebrating the Shushan Purim holiday on February 28 and sought to disturb the peace.

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)

One of the rioters who has not yet been identified saw a vehicle approaching and asked the driver for the time in order to identify whether he spoke Hebrew with an Arabic accent. Upon confirming that the driver was indeed Arab, the rioter yelled, “Arab, Arab! Here’s another one!” according to the charge sheet.

Two of the suspects allegedly proceeded to hurl stones and kick the vehicle, with one of them seeking to open the door before the driver managed to flee the scene.

The suspects then attacked a police vehicle that arrived at the scene, kicking the van and breaking its windshield wipers, the indictment said.

An unidentified rioter then allegedly identify Hamed as an Arab after he too slowed down upon reaching the mob.

The suspects began attacking his car, hurling stones, bottles and other objects that led to Hamed’s hospitalization, according to the indictment. Ben Abu, who happened to have been at the scene during the time of the riot, was struck and killed by Hamed as the driver sought to flee.

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)

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 rocks at me, and I was injured.”

“They wanted to kill me because I’m Arab.”

Hebrew media reported last week that prosecutors are expected to drop the charges against Hamed.

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)

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.

“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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