A driver who plowed his minibus into a demonstrator in Jerusalem on Sunday night, killing him, told investigators he had been attacked by a group of protesters before the fatal ramming.
“When I came to the road, they started attacking me and throwing rocks at me because I’m an Arab,” Ibrahim Hamed told police investigators, according to Channel 13 news.
“They wanted to kill me because I’m Arab,” Hamed said.
Some witness reports said the driver had been attacked by the crowd and was attempting to flee when he plowed into the demonstrator.
At a hearing on Monday, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s court extended his remand by three days.
“His detention was extended because he is Arab,” Hamed’s lawyer charged, according to Army Radio.
Hamed drove his vehicle into the man in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood on Sunday evening. He fled the scene but was later caught and arrested, telling police had been trying to flee the area after rocks were thrown at his vehicle, causing him to lose control.
Magen David Adom emergency service medics rushed the victim to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center in critical condition with severe upper-body injuries, but he succumbed to his injuries.
Hebrew-language media identified the victim as 47-year-old Itamar Ben Abu, from Mevasseret Zion outside Jerusalem. Police ordered his body sent to the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Jaffa for an autopsy.
At the time of the incident, dozens of protesters were blocking traffic and hurling bottles at vehicles in a rally against coronavirus lockdown rules.
The protesters were demonstrating near the Education Ministry offices as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was holding a press conference there.
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.
Warning: Graphic footage
— ynet עדכוני (@ynetalerts) February 28, 2021
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.
מזעזע: אמבולנס שהגיע לפנות חולה בשכונת מאה שערים הותקף על ידי פורעים. איפה המשטרה? עסוקה בהורדת ילדים קטנים מהאוטובוסים pic.twitter.com/DHrz1KS9Z4
— קובי בורנשטיין (@kobi_bornshtein) February 28, 2021
Police dispersed the crowd with flash grenades and arrested two people during the clashes, Kan news reported.
Sunday saw many ultra-Orthodox and non-Haredi Jerusalemites alike celebrate the Purim holiday in violation of the virus restrictions.