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Father of injured soldier says West Bank hit-and-run was no accident

Roni Aharoni claims Palestinian who ran over three IDF troops did so deliberately, contradicting official who said November 5 crash may have been inadvertent

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

The parents of injured IDF soldier Moshe Aharoni speak to the media outside the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital emergency unit where Moshe is hospitalized, on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
The parents of injured IDF soldier Moshe Aharoni speak to the media outside the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital emergency unit where Moshe is hospitalized, on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The father of an Israel Defense Forces soldier who was injured when a Palestinian man drove into him and two fellow troops, as they stood at the side of a West Bank road, said on Sunday that he does not believe the crash was a simple traffic accident.

Roni Aharoni said that his son, Moshe Aharoni, who was seriously injured in the hit-and-run last week, told him that the driver of the commercial van had accelerated as he barreled into the soldiers.

Police originally said they were treating the November 5 incident as a possible terror attack, but a security source said — after the driver turned himself in — that officials were investigating the possibility that the driver lost control of his van and did not mean to ram into the three soldiers.

During a press conference called at the Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, where his son is being treated, Aharoni recalled that in the hours after the attack, before he lost consciousness, his son told his parents what had happened. He remains hospitalized in serious condition.

“He told us, ‘I saw the eyes of this evil person, and I heard the engine roar as it accelerated before he went into us and sent us to hell,'” Aharoni said.

The crash came hours after an East Jerusalem man plowed his car into a group of pedestrians in the capital, killing two people and injuring several more. The driver, Ibrahim al-Akary, was shot dead by police after getting out of his van and attacking people with a metal rod. That incident, the second terror attack of its type in three weeks, raised tensions in the city and the surrounding area.

Two victims of that attack remained in serious condition in the hospital on Sunday morning.

Aharoni told reporters that in those occurrences and other similar vehicular attacks, the perpetrators or their families often claim that it had been an accident.

“The terrorist is a partner to the actions of his kin, who already carried out these kinds of things in other places in Israel,” Aharoni said. “I remind you of the many ‘accidents’ that we have had with tractors and the light rail.

“We were amazed at the support he [the driver] got from that anonymous military source,” continued Aharoni. “I invite him to come to the room where my son is lying, to look us in the eye and tell us that [it was an accident]. Everyone, the company commander and other more senior IDF sources, tell me that this was a clear act of terror. Anyone who has seen the video clip says it was a clear, attempted murder.”

Three soldiers were injured, one seriously and two moderately, while standing next to a pillbox near the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Aroub, south of Jerusalem, at about 10 p.m. on November 5.

A graphic video of the crash posted online clearly shows the Palestinian vehicle hitting three soldiers.

The van does not appear to slow down after hitting the soldiers and drives out of frame.

At the time, a police spokesman said that officials were treating the incident as a possible terrorist attack. IDF troops launched a full-scale manhunt following the incident, arresting the driver’s father and brother and 15 other Palestinians in raids across the West Bank before the driver the driver of the van, Hamam Mesalmeh, turned himself in to the Etzion District Coordinating Office Thursday.

Mesalmeh told officials that he lost control of the large commercial vehicle he was driving, and panicked when he realized he had hit Israeli soldiers and fled the scene.

An unnamed IDF source later said the incident may have indeed been a traffic accident.

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