Court remands suspected Jerusalem car-rammer; family claims crash was accidental

Court remands suspected Jerusalem car-rammer; family claims crash was accidental

Officials refute claim, say attack which hurt 12 soldiers was deliberate; he had posted on Facebook: ‘Seeking peace with the enemy an illusion’; brother says he was scared and fled

Sanad Al-Turman, suspect in the car ramming attack near the First Station center in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020, is accompanied by prison guards outside the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on February 7, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Sanad Al-Turman, suspect in the car ramming attack near the First Station center in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020, is accompanied by prison guards outside the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on February 7, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Friday extended the remand by 10 days of the suspected terrorist believed to have carried out a car-ramming attack that injured a dozen soldiers in the capital a day earlier.

Sanad al-Turman was arrested at the Gush Etzion Junction in the central West Bank on Thursday evening. The Shin Bet said he was a 25-year-old resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of A-Tur who had no history of terrorist activity.

He was handed over to the Shin Bet security service for questioning, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Turman’s brother told the court that the incident in the early hours of Thursday morning was not a terror attack, but was a traffic incident after the driver accidentally mounted the sidewalk in his vehicle.

Medics at the scene of a suspected car-ramming attack in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020 (MDA)

“He caused an accident, got scared and fled. He didn’t mean for it to happen,” the brother said.

“He is a smart and good man, attending college,” the suspect’s brother said. “I am sure this is not a terrorist attack. I handed my brother over to the security forces, he was not apprehended.”

Security officials strongly denied the claims by the suspect’s brother, saying that Turman broke through a roadblock while fleeing and that soldiers on the scene of the attack did not draw their weapons so he would not have felt in danger.

In addition, the officials told the Kan public broadcaster, Turman did not appear to be on his way to turn himself in at the time of his arrest.

Security officials said in recent days Turman had made several Facebook posts possible signaling his intentions, writing in one update: “I’ve found my answers,” and in another: “Whoever seeks peace with the enemy is living under an illusion. Never surrender.”

In the predawn hours of Thursday morning, the assailant rammed his car into a group of Golani soldiers standing on Jerusalem’s David Remez Street outside the First Station, a popular entertainment hub in the capital, injuring 12 of them, one of them seriously.

The troops were visiting Jerusalem ahead of a planned swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall in the morning, which was delayed because of the attack but eventually went forward with some of the 12 injured soldiers. A second swearing-in ceremony, not at the Western Wall, was held later in the day for the troops involved in the attack.

Soldiers in the IDF Golani Brigade hold a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

After the attack, the assailant quickly fled the scene, abandoning his car in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, south of Jerusalem.

According to IDF spokesperson Hidai Zilberman, an initial investigation into the attack found that the soldiers were standing on the sidewalk next to the station when the car rammed them suddenly at high speed.

Israeli troops arrest an Arab man at the Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank who is suspected of ramming his car into a group of IDF soldiers, injuring 12 of them, in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The vehicle then quickly reversed and fled the scene. It did not appear that the soldiers were able to shoot at the driver during or after the attack, Zilberman said.

“This happened in seconds. We understand that some soldiers tried to put magazines into their guns and tried to go after the car, but this happened quickly,” he told reporters.

In the hours following the ramming, nine of the soldiers were released from the hospital. The severely wounded serviceman sustained injuries throughout his body and underwent surgery, according to officials from Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where he was taken.

“The injured [soldier] continued to be in serious but stable condition. He is unconscious and connected to a respirator in the intensive care unit,” hospital officials said Thursday.

The car, which had Israeli license plates, was located in Beit Jala, outside of Bethlehem, a few hours after the ramming. Small-scale clashes broke out in the village and the surrounding area throughout the day as Israeli troops searched for the driver.

Palestinian media reported that Israeli troops seized security cameras around Bethlehem, apparently as part of the search effort.

The car used in a ramming attack on a group of IDF soldiers that injured 12 of them in Jerusalem on February 6, 2020. (Israel Defense Forces)

The incident came amid a rise in tensions following the release of US President Donald Trump’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The IDF has been on a heightened state of alert and has sent three waves of reinforcements to the West Bank, including an additional battalion of combat troops on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, an Israeli soldier was lightly wounded in a shooting attack along a highway near the central West Bank settlement of Dolev. The gunman fled the scene, with Israeli troops in pursuit, the IDF said.

Earlier in the day, a Border Police officer was lightly wounded on Thursday when a terrorist opened fire at him near the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. Other officers at the scene returned fire, killing the assailant, police said.

Illustrative. Palestinians throw stones at an Israeli checkpoint during clashes with Israeli forces in the center of the flashpoint city of Hebron in the West Bank on February 4, 2020. (Hazem Bader/AFP)

Overnight, a Palestinian Authority police cadet was shot dead in clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli troops during the demolition of a terrorist’s home in the northern West Bank city of Jenin in the predawn hours of Thursday morning.

A second man, a PA police officer, died later Thursday when he succumbed to his wounds after he was shot by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Jenin in which the military said were unclear circumstances.

Small clashes between young Palestinians and Israeli security forces have intermittently taken place in some locations in the West Bank since the publication of Trump’s plan.

Breaking with past US administrations, the plan envisions the creation of a Palestinian state in about 70 percent of the West Bank, a small handful of neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, most of Gaza and some areas of southern Israel — if the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, disarm Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, and fulfill other conditions.

The plan also allows Israel to annex settlements, grants the Jewish state sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and overriding security control west of the Jordan River, and bars Palestinian refugees from settling in Israel.

Both the PA and Hamas have vehemently rejected the initiative, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas calling it “the slap of the century.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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