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Four settler youths questioned over teen killed in crash during police chase

TV reports say the suspects, who were in the speeding car with Ahuvia Sandak after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians, are being probed for negligent manslaughter

Israelis protest in Safed on December 22, 2020, following the death of Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when his car flipped over while being chased by police in the West Bank. (David Cohen/Flash90)
Israelis protest in Safed on December 22, 2020, following the death of Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when his car flipped over while being chased by police in the West Bank. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Police on Wednesday questioned four friends of a teenage settler who died in a car crash while fleeing police, after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the West Bank.

The four so-called hilltop youth, who were in the car with 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak at the time of Monday’s crash, were being questioned on suspicion of negligent manslaughter, Channel 13 and Kan reported.

They were also being investigated over the alleged stone-throwing incident that led to the chase.

At the same time as the probe of the four, who were all lightly-to-moderately injured in the crash, the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigations Department was questioning the officers involved in the incident.

Hard-right MK Bezalel Smotrich called on the attorney general and head of the Police Investigations Department to halt the probe of the suspects, saying it “tainted” the investigation of the officers.

“The Israel Police is again looking for someone to blame for its mistakes. Were the officers already arrested and questioned?” he tweeted.

On Tuesday, a number of protests over Sandak’s death were held around Israel.

Police officers are seen during a protest in the northern city of Safed on December 22, 2020, following the death of Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when his car flipped over while being chased by police in the West Bank. (David Cohen/Flash90)

The vehicle carrying the settler youth flipped over near the Michmash Junction, killing Sandak and injuring the four others. The suspects were apprehended and taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem with light to moderate injuries.

Police said officers had signaled for the vehicle to halt after catching the young men hurling rocks at passing Palestinian vehicles. The suspects refused and sought to flee the scene, then lost control of their vehicle, which rolled over at the side of the road.

According to Honenu, a legal aid group that often represents far-right settlers, the police car “hit [the settlers’] vehicle with force from behind, and the force of the impact caused their car to run off the road.”

Sandak was trapped under the car and it took roughly 40 minutes to pull him out, the group said.

According to Army Radio, though, the other passengers in the car assumed that Sandak had fled the scene, not knowing that he remained trapped under the vehicle. They also refused to cooperate with police at the scene, wasting time that could have been used to save the victim.

Following the crash, around 200 demonstrators gathered outside the national police headquarters to protest what they said was police brutality. The protestors chanted, “Police are killers” and “Jews don’t kill Jews.”

Some threw stones at police while others tried to break into the compound.

Police said 40 demonstrators were arrested and one officer was lightly wounded in the head by a stone thrown. Protesters said that several of those detained were teens, some as young as 13.

Israeli police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest after a young settler was killed earlier today in a car crash during a police chase, outside the Police headquarters in Jerusalem on December 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The deadly car crash came hours after an Israeli woman, Esther Horgen, was found dead in a northern West Bank forest where she had gone for a run a day earlier. Authorities are investigating her death as a suspected terror attack.

Horgen’s husband called for more construction in the West Bank to honor her death.

Military sources told the Walla news site that they feared Horgen’s death could spark a series of revenge attacks by the settler youth on Palestinians and inflame an already tense situation in the West Bank.

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