Police probing death of Israeli woman in West Bank crash; family calls it terror

Relatives say Hadas Tapuhi, a mother of 4, swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid stones thrown by Palestinians; police say they have yet to pinpoint cause of fatal collision

Hadas Tapuhi, 30, who was killed in a traffic accident near the West Bank settlement of Ateret on January 13, 2019. (courtesy)
Hadas Tapuhi, 30, who was killed in a traffic accident near the West Bank settlement of Ateret on January 13, 2019. (courtesy)

Police on Wednesday said they were investigating a fatal crash in the West Bank that killed a 30-year-old Israeli mother of four and had yet to reach any conclusions on the cause, as the family of the victim said they had evidence that Palestinians stoned her car, prompting her to lose control.

Hadas Tapuhi died Sunday when her car swerved from its lane and hit an oncoming truck near the settlement of Ateret, where she lived, in the northern West Bank.

“The police are still investigating the cause of the accident and the investigation has not concluded the reasons for the cause of the accident,” police said in a statement.

The statement came following repeated comments from her community and family that it was not an accident and that Tapuhi’s death was not being properly investigated.

A statement Sunday from Ateret said that an IDF tracker had identified signs that stones had been thrown at the site of the crash.

“In that specific spot, stones are thrown every week at Israeli vehicles,” the statement said, providing a picture it said showed the stones on the road.

A picture provided by the Ateret settlement that appears to show fragments of stones on the road at the site of a fatal car crash in January 2019 (Courtesy)

“The IDF and police suspect that the driver tried to escape from the stones thrown at her and swerved from her lane and crashed into a truck heading toward her,” the statement said. “The secretariat of Ateret demands that the security forces complete the investigation and prevent the next case.”

While stone-throwing by Palestinians at Israeli cars is a frequent occurrence in the West Bank, roads there are also notoriously dangerous, with a higher proportion of fatalities than on roads inside the Green Line. Most roads are a single lane in each direction with no dividers and plagued by reckless driving and little enforcement.

However, with police still refusing to provide a definitive cause for the accident, her family have stepped up calls for an “urgent” investigation, implying they wanted to see the Shin Bet security service involved.

In a letter published on the Israel National News site on Tuesday, Tapuhi’s brother, Yuval Langzam, said the family had further evidence that the accident was caused by stone-throwing, but did not give details.

“We are not willing to let it go or to rest, even in this most painful time at the start of (the Jewish mourning period of) shiva — until we know conclusively that the nationalistic angle has been thoroughly investigated with all means,” Langzam wrote.

“We demand the start of  a full-scale, urgent investigation that will also probe a nationalistic (motive). An in-depth serious investigation using all available military and intelligence resources, just as they do (in other cases) when needed,” he wrote.

His call was apparently a reference to the recent arrest and impending prosecution of an Israeli teen suspected in the deadly October stoning of a Palestinian woman.

Aisha Rabi (Courtesy)

The minor was arrested on December 30 along with two other students from the Pri Haaretz yeshiva high school in the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim. A week later, two more boys from the same boarding school were arrested. Last Sunday, the Shin Bet security service, which is running the investigation along with the police’s nationalistic crime unit, partially lifted a gag order on the case and announced that the five boys were suspected of involvement in the killing of Aisha Rabi.

The 47-year-old Palestinian mother of eight was fatally struck on the head by a rock while driving in a car with her husband and daughter near the northern West Bank’s Tapuah Junction on October 12.

The prime suspect in the case is still being held in custody.

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