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Man killed after being crushed by minibus during Jerusalem COVID protest

Driver plows into crowd demonstrating against virus restrictions, attempts to flee but is arrested; says he was trying to escape stones thrown at his vehicle

Police at the scene where a man was injured after being hit by a car in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem on February 28, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Police at the scene where a man was injured after being hit by a car in the ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem on February 28, 2021 (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

A man was killed Sunday night in Jerusalem during protests against lockdown restrictions after being hit by a minibus that plowed into a group of demonstrators.

The man was hit in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood. The driver fled the scene but was later caught and arrested by police, telling them he had been trying to flee the area after stones 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. Doctors at the hospital were forced to declare him dead.

Hebrew media identified the dead man 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 outside the Education Ministry offices at the same time as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was holding a press conference there.

Graphic 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.

Some witness reports said the driver had been attacked by the crowd and was attempting to flee when he plowed into the demonstrator.

A sign under the minibus’s windshield appeared to identify it as a medical vehicle in the service of a hospital.

The driver fled the scene but was later arrested. He told police that the incident occurred as he was trying to flee the area after being hit by several rocks. “I was certain they were going to kill me,” Channel 13 quoted him as telling interrogators.

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.

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