Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Sunday appeared to downplay an apparent rock throwing attack that left a Palestinian woman dead, criticizing left-wing activists for blaming Jewish settlers and saying they were basing their accusations on a “scrap of an incident.”
Yakoub Rabi was driving through the West Bank near Tapuah junction when his car was hit by a stone and he lost control and crashed, killing his wife, Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi, 47.
There was no official word on the exact cause of death, with some reporting that she was killed by a rock that hit her in the head. Yakoub Rabi has told media he heard those he believes were responsible speaking Hebrew.
Referring to the former head of the dovish Peace Now organization, Yariv Oppenheimer, Levin told Army Radio in an interview that leftist groups were jumping on the incident to condemn Jewish settlers even though they ignore the frequent Palestinian stone-throwing attacks on Israelis, which have in the past caused serious injuries and deaths.
“It is impossible to not be aggravated by the hypocrisy of that kind of people, that finds sufficient the scrap of an incident that hasn’t even been checked, and they already known that the Jewish side is guilty,” he said.
“Terror incidents of stone throwing happen every day; not only don’t they condemn the matter, they give the feeling that it is okay because we are ‘occupiers,'” Levin said Sunday. “It is quite galling that it takes an incident like this in relation to a Palestinian vehicle for it [stone throwing] to be raised on the agenda.”
The Shin Bet said Saturday it had opened an investigation into the incident, suggesting that it was in fact suspected of being an act of terror carried out by area settlers.
The nationalistic crime unit of the police’s Judea and Samaria (West Bank) District is also probing the death, which has been placed under a gag order, although authorities have not ruled out the possibility that a group of Palestinian stone-throwers mistook Rabi’s vehicle for an Israeli one.
Oppenheimer responded by tweeting that Levin is “a scrap of human being.”
Oppenheimer has tweeted his conviction that it was Jewish settlers who carried out the Friday stoning attack.
Former leader of the Meretz party MK Zehava Galon tweeted that “The scrap of an event that Levin is talking about is the murder of a woman, but she is Palestinian and Levin is the scrap of a man, so there is no surprise in his benighted response.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov on Sunday said he condemned the attack and called on Israeli authorities to quickly bring those responsible to justice.
“Such attacks only seek to drag everyone into a new cycle of violence that would further undermine the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis,” he said in a statement.
Yakoub Rabi said that he was sure the attackers were Jews from a nearby settlement, the Hebrew daily Haaretz reported Sunday.
“There were six or seven of them, you could clearly see that they were youngsters,” he said. “At that time and place, no Palestinian youth would dare stand there, and the place is surrounded by army forces. The area of Za’tara is always surrounded by army forces and therefore it is clear that it was settlers who did this.”
Za’tara is a Palestinian village near Tapuah Junction.
Friday’s incident in the northern West Bank came amid high tensions after a pair of terror attacks against Israelis in the area earlier that week.
Last Sunday, two Israelis were killed by a Palestinian coworker in a terror shooting at the Barkan Industrial Park and on Thursday an IDF reservist was moderately hurt in a stabbing attack outside an army base.
The Shin Bet security service announced the arrest of the suspected stabber hours after Thursday’s stabbing, though Ashraf Na’alow, the suspect in the shooting attack, remains on the run.