The family of a man who was hit and killed by a minibus fleeing an allegedly anti-Arab, ultra-Orthodox mob in Jerusalem on Sunday said that they do not blame the driver.
Ibrahim Hamed said he was attacked by a group of protesters and was attempting to escape when he plowed his vehicle on Sunday night into Itamar Ben Abu, 47.
Ben Abu’s father, Albert, told Channel 13 news on Tuesday that he blamed the rioters for his son’s death.
“These people call themselves yeshiva students?” he said, adding that the mob was motivated by ignorance.
He added that his son would not have wanted him to remain angry over what happened.
“I have no anger in me. That would be a blow to Itamar’s memory. That will not be my son’s spirit and soul. I will remain true to him,” he said.
Albert Ben Abu and his family said his son was not part of the mob and had been trying to calm the situation.
“He just ran into a terrible situation and paid for it with his life. He only wanted to help, he wasn’t connected to anything going on. He really never wanted to do a bad thing to anyone,” Itamar Ben Abu’s sister said.
Hamed, the driver, was released from police custody on Tuesday. He told Channel 13, “The death of Itamar Ben Abu breaks my heart.”
“I’m pained over his death,” Hamed said.
Hamed is facing manslaughter charges, despite ostensibly being a victim of racially motivated violence himself. Police have not arrested any suspects for attacking him.
Security camera footage showed him fleeing into a store after the accident and pleading for help.
He said after the accident, “Everyone came at me and started smashing the vehicle while I was in it. They attacked me, threw rockets at me, and I was injured.”
Hamed said the crowd was motivated by racism.
“When I came to the road, they started attacking me and throwing rocks at me because I’m an Arab,” Hamed told police investigators, according to Channel 13.
“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 Ben Abu.
Hamed’s vehicle struck Ben Abu 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.
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 reportedly demonstrating against coronavirus restrictions 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.