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Netanyahu calls parents of settler teen killed in crash during police chase

PM said to invite Ahuvia Sandak’s family to visit his office; 13 right-wing protesters arrested in Jerusalem, rocks reportedly thrown at Palestinian homes in West Bank

Demonstrators holds placards showing Ahuvia Sandak as they protest against his death in a car crash during a police chase last week, outside the national police headquarters in Jerusalem, on December 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Demonstrators holds placards showing Ahuvia Sandak as they protest against his death in a car crash during a police chase last week, outside the national police headquarters in Jerusalem, on December 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Thursday with the parents of a settler teenager who was killed in a car crash last week during a police chase in the West Bank, allegedly after throwing stones at Palestinians.

Netanyahu extended his condolences to Ahuvia Sandak’s parents and invited them to his office, while they invited him to visit their hometown of Bat Ayin in the West Bank, according to Hebrew media reports.

“The truth about the circumstances of your son’s death will come to light,” Netanyahu was quoted by Kan News as saying during the phone call.

Police have said the car carrying the teen lost control while fleeing from them. Some settlers have claimed the crash was caused by a police car ramming the vehicle. Right-wing activists have held daily protests against police since the incident. These have often turned violent.

Netanyahu’s call came as fresh protests broke out over Sandak’s death and settler violence against Palestinians was reported in the West Bank.

According to the Yesh Din rights group, settlers threw stones and blocked Palestinian traffic at several sites across the West Bank, including junctions close to Yitzhar, Shiloh and Homesh.

In Jerusalem, 13 protesters were arrested during a demonstration at the main entrance to the city.

Violence was also reported at that protest on the part of police, with a video showing a cop shoving a protester into the street, with the young man nearly being hit by a moving vehicle.

Earlier Thursday, a group of 19 right-wing lawmakers sent a letter to Public Minister Amir Ohana calling for an external investigative committee to probe police conduct in the incident.

“There is great importance in restoring trust,” the MKs wrote, according to the Walla news site. “A police investigative committee, or a probe by the Police Internal Investigations Department, while important, won’t restore public trust.”

The letter was signed by MKs from the United Torah Judaism, Shas and Yamina parties.

The vehicle carrying Sandak and four other so-called hilltop youth extremists flipped over near the Michmash Junction in the West Bank last week, 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.

A vehicle belonging to hilltop youth that crashed while under police pursuit in the northern West Bank on December 21, 2020. (United Hatzalah)

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 were probing negligent homicide suspicions against the four other passengers, according to recent reports. They are also being investigated over the alleged stone-throwing incident that led to the chase.

In addition to the probe of the four, who were all injured in the crash, the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has questioned 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 last week suspected in Horgen’s murder, as well as several suspected accomplices.

Horgen’s murder sparked several days of tension in the West Bank. 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.

The Israeli security services reported 13 incidents of stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians in the days immediately following Horgen’s murder. Yesh Din has claimed an additional seven stone-throwing attacks by settlers during the past week.

A security source told reporters anonymously on Wednesday that the police were “losing control” of the situation, even as “violence [by settlers] against Palestinians and security forces has reached new heights.”

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