Settler indicted for attempting to run over Palestinian

25-year-old Beitar Illit resident also rammed into a different man with his shopping cart upon identifying him as Palestinian

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent

Construction in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, with the Arab village of Wadi Fukin in the foreground, on June 17, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Construction in the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit, with the Arab village of Wadi Fukin in the foreground, on June 17, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

An Israeli settler was indicted on hate crime charges Thursday for a series of attacks on Palestinians, including attempting to run over a Palestinian street cleaner with his car late last month.

The five-count indictment against the 25-year-old Beitar Illit resident — identified only as Haim Asher Cohen — included charges for racially-motivated assault, attempted aggravated assault and deliberately damaging Palestinian property.

The charges surrounding the attempted car attack were not listed as racially motivated, though court filings indicated Cohen was motivated by anti-Arab sentiment. A court spokesperson said racial motivation cannot be appended to serious charges such as aggravated assault charges.

According to the Jerusalem District Attorney, Cohen drove up to a street cleaner and asked him “What’s going on?” in an attempt to identify the man’s nationality.

When the worker responded confusedly, the assailant concluded that the man was of Arab origin. At that point, he backed up his car and then sped toward the Palestinian.

The worker managed to jump out of the way, but the defendant backed up and tried to hit him a second time, but instead hit a garbage dumpster.

The Palestinian was not hurt. He filed a complaint with police later in the day and, following a police investigation, Cohen was arrested the next day.

During his questioning, the suspect confessed to five other unsolved instances of violence and vandalism within a short period of time targeting Palestinians or their vehicles in Beitar Illit.

According to the indictment, the defendant went to a grocery store in the ultra-Orthodox settlement southwest of Jerusalem. When he overheard a Palestinian employee speaking in Arabic to a colleague, he rushed at him with his shopping cart, hitting the worker in the back of the leg.

Later that night, the defendant drove to a separate grocery store in the community where he once worked. After parking his car, he identified a vehicle that belonged to a Palestinian and proceeded to smash its windshield, side mirrors and headlights.

In a separate occasion at the same parking lot, the suspect used a screwdriver to puncture holes in three tires of another vehicle he identified as belonging to a Palestinian, the indictment said.

The prosecution requested that the defendant be remanded until the end of proceedings against him.

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