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Suspect said to have confessed to Nahariya ramming that killed police volunteer

Police said investigating whether killing was premeditated; uncle of slain officer says nephew volunteered to work that day so a Jewish colleague could celebrate Sukkot

Security forces at the scene where a driver rammed two police officers, killing one of them, in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, September 21, 2021 (Alon Nadav/Flash90)
Security forces at the scene where a driver rammed two police officers, killing one of them, in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, September 21, 2021 (Alon Nadav/Flash90)

The main suspect has reportedly confessed to the ramming of a police team in Nahariya on Tuesday, which left a police volunteer dead and an officer seriously hurt.

According to the unsourced report from Channel 13 news, the suspect additionally has a criminal record from a previous conviction for transporting workers from the West Bank to illegally work in Israel.

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 apparent 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.

The Kan public broadcaster said that the man had admitted to driving the offending car, but claimed he never noticed hitting anyone. The report said officials were investigating whether the attack was premeditated.

The alleged driver has been reported to be a building contractor and the brother of the owner of the company carrying out the construction work, as well as being a well-known figure in the world of Arab soccer, having once owned a local team.

Police volunteer Hossam Zaghir, killed on September 21, 2021 in Nahariya. (Courtesy)

Channel 13 reported that police were also expected to check whether officials overseeing the operation had known that the construction work was being done during a holiday, as well as whether they were aware that illegal workers were being used.

Police on Tuesday night arrested two Palestinian illegal workers suspected of being accomplices in the ramming who were allegedly at the construction site in the northern city.

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.

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.

Zaghir’s uncle told Kan that his nephew volunteered to work the shift so that a Jewish colleague could celebrate the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

“This is a heavy disaster for the family and the whole village. Hossam chose to volunteer today instead of a police officer who was celebrating Sukkot, and he was killed. The killer acted cruelly, saw two policemen he did not know and ran them over,” the unnamed uncle said.

Zaghir is set to be buried on Wednesday.

Israeli security forces in Shlomi near the car that ran over two police officers, killing one, at a police checkpoint in the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, September 21, 2021 (Alon Nadav/Flash90)

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.

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