Driver assaulted during Jerusalem clashes: ‘I thought I was going to die’

Beit Shemesh resident Yahya Jardi was badly beaten by multiple attackers; in 2nd incident, security guard at Justice Ministry compound fired in the air to drive off rioters

Yahya Jardi speaks from his hospital bed at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem after being beaten by multiple assailants during violent clashes in Jerusalem, on April 23, 2021 (video screenshot)
Yahya Jardi speaks from his hospital bed at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem after being beaten by multiple assailants during violent clashes in Jerusalem, on April 23, 2021 (video screenshot)

A Jewish Israeli driver who was assaulted and beaten by multiple attackers during Thursday’s violent clashes in Jerusalem between Jewish and Arab protesters and police recounted the ordeal from his hospital bed Friday.

“I was standing in traffic and they started throwing rocks at my window,” 46-year-old Yahya Jardi from Beit Shemesh told the Ynet news site.

The religious father of nine, who works as a minibus driver, had taken children to Jerusalem and decided to use the opportunity to pray at the Western Wall. He said he had not been aware of the rioting.

When he tried to flee on foot, he was caught and beaten by several people. His car was later set on fire.

“They caught me and started to beat me. I said to them ‘Why are you doing this, what have I done to you?’?

Video on social media showed him being repeatedly kicked as he lay on the ground.

“I thought I was going to die,” he told Kan news. “I thought I wouldn’t get home, that I was dead… I was thrown to the ground and beaten. I couldn’t even breathe. They beat up my entire body.”

He was rushed to Hadassah Medical Center on Mt. Scopus where he remained under treatment at the weekend.

Police on Friday said they were searching for the culprits in the attack on Jardi.

Police said dozens of people were arrested and 20 officers were wounded in a night of chaos in Jerusalem Thursday, where security forces separately clashed with Palestinians angry about Ramadan restrictions and Jewish extremists who held an anti-Arab march nearby.

Streets are set ablaze as members of the Israeli security forces deploy during clashes with Palestinian protesters outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City on April 22, 2021. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Tensions have spiked in recent days in Jerusalem. The police have clashed with Palestinians on a nightly basis since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last week, when authorities set up barricades at Damascus Gate, a traditional outdoor gathering spot.

Police said the protesters threw stones and bottles. Footage circulating online showed police and hundreds of protesters running through the streets as the sound of either fireworks or stun grenades echoed in the background. Police said three people were arrested.

The Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service said 32 Palestinians were injured in the clashes, including 12 who were hospitalized.

Meanwhile the far-right Jewish group known as Lehava led a march of hundreds of protesters chanting “Arabs get out!” and “Death to Arabs!” toward Damascus Gate. The show of force came in response to videos circulated on TikTok showing Palestinians slapping religious Jews at random. Other videos made in response to them appear to show Jews assaulting Arabs.

In another late-night Thursday incident, an Israeli security guard fired warning shots in the air after he allegedly came under attack near the Justice Ministry offices on Salah al-Din Street. Video on social media showed the moment he began to shoot, before driving off.

According to a Channel 13 report, the guard, who came from the ministry compound, was assaulted and had his windscreen smashed by rioters and was hit in the head with a stone before firing the shots. He was unharmed.

The report said justice officials met Friday to discuss how to better protect institutions on the street, which is also house to the Jerusalem District Court, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trial is being held.

Tensions remained high on Friday, which saw renewed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

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