Hundreds of protesters, cops clash outside police HQ over settler teen’s death

11 officers hurt in Jerusalem as rocks thrown at police, Arab passengers in car; two toddlers reported hit by police water cannon, not injured; 21 arrested

Police officers clash with demonstrators during a protest following the death of Ahuvia Sandak during a police chase, outside the police headquarters in Jerusalem, December 26, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police officers clash with demonstrators during a protest following the death of Ahuvia Sandak during a police chase, outside the police headquarters in Jerusalem, December 26, 2020 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hundreds of right-wing protesters clashed with cops in Jerusalem Saturday evening, over the death of a young settler in a car crash while fleeing police after allegedly throwing stones at Palestinians. Eleven policemen were injured, and two toddlers were hit by water from a police cannon.

Protests have been held nightly in Jerusalem and elsewhere since the death on Monday of 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak in the central West Bank.

The demonstrators rioted outside the national police headquarters, blocking roads and the light rail tracks, according to a police statement, which said protesters also hurled rocks at officers, 11 of whom were injured.

Police said rocks were also thrown at a car, whose passengers the Haaretz daily identified as Arab, as well as at passersby. The police headquarters is located in East Jerusalem, near several Palestinian neighborhoods.

A police handout photo from December 26, 2020, shows an officer who was hurt by protesters during a demonstration in Jerusalem over the death of 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed in a car crash while fleeing police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the West Bank. (Israel Police)

“The police forces acted against rock-throwing toward them and at passing civilians,” a police statement said. “The officers succeeded in catching three rock throwers ‘red-handed’ and they were taken for questioning.”

Twenty-one protesters in all were arrested on suspicion of violating public order.

Video from the scene showed a police water cannon firing toward demonstrators in an effort to disperse them, with Channel 12 news reporting that two young children were struck by the water blast. They were not said to have been injured.

One clip showed officers pushing away a stroller with a child of one of the protesters, as angry demonstrators crowded around them.

Police said the toddler’s father stood with the stroller in front of the water cannon and was arrested after ignoring orders to move,

“The baby was handed over to his mother who was at the scene,” according to a police statement.

A clip showed a policeman beating a protester at the demonstration.

The vehicle carrying Sandak and four other so-called hilltop youth flipped over near the Michmash Junction in the West Bank Monday, killing him and injuring the others. The suspected stone-throwers were apprehended and taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem with light to moderate injuries. Sandak was from the southern West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin.

Police said following the accident that officers 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 on 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.

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)

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.

Police questioned the other passengers in the car on Wednesday on suspicion of negligent manslaughter, according to Hebrew media reports. 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.

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, apparently after she was killed violently.

Security forces arrested a Palestinian man Thursday suspected in Horgen’s murder, as well as several suspected accomplices.

A photo released by the Israel Defense Forces on December 24, 2020, shows soldiers in the West Bank detaining a suspect in the suspected murder of Israeli woman Esther Horgen. (Israel Defense Forces)

Horgen’s murder sparked several days of tension in the West Bank. On Monday night, dozens of settlers marched through Huwara, a Palestinian village close to Nablus, in response to the murder. According to Israeli media reports, 13 allegations that settlers threw stones at Palestinians were reported on Tuesday alone.

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 further inflame the already tense situation in the West Bank.

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