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Palestinian grabs Israeli police officer’s rifle, flees to Hebron

Security forces launch manhunt for man suspected of snatching firearm during West Bank traffic stop

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Police question a Palestinian man near the West Bank town of al-Fawwar, south of Hebron on June 8, 2022. The suspect snatched the rifle of one of the officers before driving off. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Police question a Palestinian man near the West Bank town of al-Fawwar, south of Hebron on June 8, 2022. The suspect snatched the rifle of one of the officers before driving off. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Security forces launched a manhunt on Wednesday morning for a Palestinian man who snatched a police officer’s rifle in a Palestinian town in the southern West Bank, officials said.

According to the Israel Police, the suspect was halted by traffic cops at the al-Fawwar junction — near the town of the same name and the West Bank city of Hebron — and began to question him for unspecified reasons.

“During the questioning, the driver was asked to identify himself. The driver of the vehicle grabbed the M16 weapon of one of the officers and began driving while dragging the officer until the weapon detached from his body,” police said in a statement.

Two security camera videos of the incident appeared to show one of the officers removing the rifle with a shoulder strap from his body, and thrusting the weapon into the window of the car, before the driver took off.

It was not immediately clear if the suspect grabbed the weapon, or if it got stuck in the car.

The military, along with police forces, launched a manhunt for the suspect, who is believed to have fled toward the general Hebron area, officials said.

According to Hebrew-language media reports, the man turned himself in to the Palestinian Authority security forces, with the weapon, which will be returned to Israel.

Police said the identity of the suspect was known to law enforcement officials.

Tensions have risen sharply between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months against the backdrop of repeated terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that left 19 people dead.

The Israeli army has stepped up its West Bank activities in an attempt to crack down on the spiraling violence. Overnight Tuesday, 21 Palestinians suspected of involvement in terror activities were arrested, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Military raids have sparked clashes that left at least 39 Palestinians dead since mid-March, many of them gunmen involved in firefights with Israeli soldiers or participants in violent clashes, and others apparently uninvolved bystanders.

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