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Settlers, police clash in protest over car chase death of teen; 40 arrested

Some 200 demonstrators try to break into Jerusalem police HQ after Ahuvia Sandak, 16, dies as officers chase youths suspected of throwing stones at Palestinians

Israeli police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest after a young settler was killed earlier today in a car crash during a police chase, outside the Police headquarters in Jerusalem on December 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Israeli police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest after a young settler was killed earlier today in a car crash during a police chase, outside the Police headquarters in Jerusalem on December 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Officers clashed with demonstrators late Monday in Jerusalem as some 200 protesters tried to break into police headquarters to protest the death of a young settler, who was was killed in a car crash when he and others tried to flee police after allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinians in the central West Bank.

The vehicle belonging to so-called hilltop youth flipped over near the Michmash Junction, killing the 16-year-old and injuring four other people. The suspects were apprehended and taken to Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in Jerusalem with light to moderate injuries.

The deceased was later identified as Ahuvia Sandak, from the southern West Bank  settlement of Bat Ayin.

Some 200 demonstrators gathered outside the national police headquarters to protest what they said was police brutality. The protestors chanted, “Police are killers” and “Jews don’t kill Jews.”

Some threw stones at police, while others tried to break into the police compound.

Israeli police officers scuffle with demonstrators during a protest after a young settler was killed earlier today in a car crash during a police chase, outside the Police headquarters in Jerusalem on December 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Police said 40 demonstrators were arrested and one officer was lightly wounded in the head by a stone thrown. Protesters said that several of those detained were teens, some as young as 13.

Earlier, police said officers signaled for the vehicle to halt after catching the young men hurling rocks at passing Palestinian vehicles. The suspects refused and sought to flee the scene, then lost control of their vehicle, which rolled over at the side of the road.

According to Honenu, a legal aid group that often represents far-right settlers, the police car “hit [the settlers’] vehicle with force from behind, and the force of the impact caused their car to run off the road.”

Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed when his car flipped over while being chased by police in the West Bank on December 21, 2020. (Courtesy)

Sandak was trapped under the car and it took roughly 40 minutes to pull him out, the group said.

According to Army Radio, though, the other passengers in the car assumed that Sandak had fled the scene, not knowing that he remained trapped under the vehicle. They also refused to cooperate with police at the scene, wasting time that could have been used to save the victim.

Later Monday, Sandak’s parents released a statement, calling him “a rare and pure soul who has left us a tremendous will — go and inherit this entire land,” they said.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department announced that it would be probing the circumstances of the crash.

Far-right Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich said in a statement that “police have a clear protocol for this [type of pursuit] and there is grave concern that it was violated, which led to the tragic result.”

Smotrich claimed “settlement representatives” and Zaka emergency workers were being barred from the scene in what could lead to a “serious crisis of confidence” of settlers in the police.

TV footage showed police physically trying to keep Smotrich from the scene and pulling him by his arm, even though as an MK, he has parliamentary immunity that allows him complete freedom of movement.

In a tweet, Smotrich called the police behavior “serious” and said he planned to file a complaint.

Sandak was buried in the early hours of Tuesday morning at the Kfar Etzion cemetery, near his hometown, where he was eulogized by his parents.

“Sorry if we were not there, if we did not look after you and did not set enough boundaries,” said Avraham and Ayelet, according to Channel 12 news.

“I want to get up in the morning and hear that we have built another 10 houses in [the illegal West Bank outpost of] Maoz Esther,” said Ayelet. “It seems to me that this is the will of Ahuvia.”

The deadly car crash came hours after an Israeli woman, Esther Horgen, was found dead in a northern West Bank forest where she had gone for a run a day earlier. Authorities are investigating her death as a suspected terror attack.

Horgen’s husband also called for construction in the West Bank to honor her death.

Military sources told the Walla news site that they feared Horgen’s death could spark a series of revenge attacks by the settler youth on Palestinians and inflame an already tense situation in the West Bank.

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