ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Driver freed from custody as cops back his version of events

Car plows into anti-overhaul protesters blocking Tel Aviv highway, injuring one

Driver tells police he accidentally hit the gas while swapping with his overwhelmed son, who was in driver’s seat; PM issues condemnation, opposition MKs blame gov’t incitement

A car plows into anti-overhaul protesters on Tel Aviv's Ayalon highway on September 9, 2023. (Screen capture/Twitter)
A car plows into anti-overhaul protesters on Tel Aviv's Ayalon highway on September 9, 2023. (Screen capture/Twitter)

A car plowed through a group of protesters against the judicial overhaul who were blocking a major Tel Aviv highway on Saturday night at the tail end of the city’s weekly mass demonstration.

Several people were thrown to the concrete and a 25-year-old woman was lightly injured, requiring hospitalization for a leg injury that she sustained.

This was not the first time anti-overhaul protesters were hit at a rally this year, and opposition lawmakers said it was the result of incitement from the government, whose members have come down hard on the demonstrators.

The car stopped moving several meters from the incident, and the driver got out, as a group of demonstrators surrounded the vehicle.

The driver was then detained by police for questioning before being released Sunday morning, with investigators accepting his claim it was an accident and that he did not intend to hit the demonstrators.

According to Hebrew media, the driver explained to officers that his son, a new driver, had been driving the car before he got overwhelmed by the protesters blocking the road.

The father, in the front passenger seat, decided to switch seats with his son, but accidentally hit the gas when he was moving into the driver’s seat, causing the car to jolt forward into the protesters.

Rani, who was among the protesters struck by the car, told the Haaretz daily that the ramming had been deliberate. “All of the cars were stopped and then one of them accelerated in order to force its way through.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement shortly thereafter, saying that he, “strongly condemns any form of violence and calls on everyone to act with restraint and uphold the law.”

Yesh Atid MK Yasmin Fridman tweeted, “When a minister instructs her driver to run over [security guards], it’s no wonder her voters do it too. A great personal example.”

Earlier this week, Transportation Minister Miri Regev was heard on a video repeatedly urging her driver to make his way through a group of guards and police blocking their vehicle from moving forward following an altercation with Shin Bet security guards.

Opposition chair Yair Lapid tweeted, “Terrible pictures from Tel Aviv. Miraculously it ended with only one injured. This terrible incitement comes from within the government. They must take responsibility and bring an end to this societal division. I send well wishes to the wounded and to the Israeli patriots all over the country who are fighting for our democracy.

Labor chair Merav Michaeli wrote, “The wretched driver who carried out the attack against the protesters on the Ayalon Highway did not act in a vacuum. Behind him are inciting politicians from the coalition who shed the blood of the protesters. They are as responsible for the stampede as the driver.”

Earlier Saturday, it was Netanyahu who accused anti-overhaul protesters of incitement after one of the latter group’s leaders appeared to refer to his far-right allies as Nazis. Shikma Bressler apologized for the Friday remark.

Over a hundred thousand protesters rallied across the country — 118,000 in Tel Aviv alone — for the 36th straight week Saturday against the coalition’s judicial overhaul legislation, days ahead of a key showdown at the Supreme Court next week.

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