ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 149

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Photographer hit by car at Tel Aviv protest questioned for ‘breaching public order’

Police tell man who was run over by driver he is suspected of participating in blocking of Ayalon Highway on Wednesday

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Israelis block the Ayalon Highway during a protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul and in response to the removal of Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed in Tel Aviv, July 5, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90
Israelis block the Ayalon Highway during a protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul and in response to the removal of Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed in Tel Aviv, July 5, 2023. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90

Photographer Ari Sarur was shooting pictures of anti-government demonstrators as they spontaneously blocked the Ayalon Highway on Wednesday night, when a driver suddenly barreled through the crowd and hit him, dropping him to the ground.

Sarur was largely unharmed. Other protesters were forced to scramble out of the way and some were hit by the vehicle, but no one was injured.

Sarur was called in for questioning by the Tel Aviv police Thursday to submit his testimony of the event. He was then informed that he was being investigated “under caution” for allegedly participating in the blocking of the highway, Sarur’s lawyer Shachar Mandelman told Haaretz. Police have not confirmed the allegation.

According to the lawyer, Sarur was not actively participating in the demonstration, but rather only taking photographs. “At first he only stood next to other press photographers and did not descend onto the highway with the first protesters who blocked it, and only later” went down, he said.

The driver who drove through the crowd and hit Sarur, a resident of Holon, was arrested by the police immediately after the incident. He was interrogated on Thursday morning and subsequently released with a restraining order. He alleged that he did not hit the protesters on purpose, but rather that he became stuck with his car in the rally and tried to make his way out of the crowd.

Sarur described himself to Haaretz as a “regular person who has never even been inside a police station before” and said that he was caught up in an “absurd situation,” since he was the one who had been run over and injured.

Wednesday night saw multiple spontaneous protests across the country after Tel Aviv police chief Amichai Eshed announced he had been removed from his role due to what he said were “political considerations” and for refusing to use “disproportionate force” against demonstrators. Eshed said in a speech that he would resign rather than accept a transfer to a more marginal role.

Israelis protest against the judicial overhaul and in response to the removal of Tel Aviv District Commander Amichai Eshed in Jerusalem on July 5, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Thousands of Israelis took to the streets and blocked several major roads following Eshed’s announcement. The largest demonstration took place at Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Highway, where police clashed with protesters who blocked traffic and lit bonfires.

The thoroughfare was blocked for several hours, before police used force to disperse protesters after midnight.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Thursday came under criticism for “liking” a tweet by his brother on social media in support of the driver who hit the protesters.

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