Police on Tuesday night arrested two Palestinian illegal workers suspected of being accomplices in the ramming of a police team in Nahariya in the morning, which left a police volunteer dead and an officer seriously hurt.
The two were allegedly at the construction site in the northern city when the chief suspect in the case, a manager at the construction company, allegedly ran over the two policemen.
Police nabbed the two suspects along with nine other illegal workers near Jerusalem in the evening. The two were taken for questioning. A third suspected accomplice is still at large.
Police roadblocks set up to catch the suspects caused heavy congestion on the major Route 1 highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Police said that the two-man police team had arrived at the Nahariya site in the morning, after residents complained of noise and work being done during the Sukkot holiday. The work was part of a project to improve flood defenses in the city. The team also began questioning Palestinian workers at the site to check whether they were in the country legally.
The workers called the foreman who entered into a confrontation with the police. He then allegedly entered his car and ran them over. Eyewitnesses told Hebrew media that he then reversed and ran over the two policemen again before fleeing. He was arrested several hours later, as was another suspect.
There were conflicting reports on Tuesday night as to whether the driver, an Arab Israeli, was cooperating with police. Channel 12 said that the man had admitted to driving the offending car, but claimed he never noticed hitting anyone. Channel 13 news said that he was refusing to cooperate.
The alleged driver has been reported to be a building contractor and a well-known figure in the world of Arab soccer, having once owned a local team.
Channel 13 reported that police were also expected to check whether officials overseeing the operation had known that work was being done during a holiday, as well as whether they were aware that illegal workers were being used.
The police volunteer killed was named as 32-year-old Hossam Zaghir, a Druze father of two from the town of Yarka in the north of Israel. Police said that he had been volunteering since 2016.
Police initially investigated the incident as a potential nationalistic attack, but later said that it appeared to be criminal in nature.
Police chief Kobi Shabtai visited the injured officer in the hospital and said that an in-depth investigation was underway.
“We are taking the incident very seriously and are still collecting all the information, along with the Shin Bet, to get the full picture,” Shabtai said. “Right now what is important is the medical condition of the policeman, and getting him back on his feet and back to service.”
The incident came as security forces were on high alert during the Sukkot holiday and days after the last of six fugitive Palestinian security prisoners were captured after a two-week manhunt.