US backs probe into ‘accident’ after Palestinian brothers killed by Israeli driver

Embassy says it supports investigation into weekend incident PA insists was intentional ramming, but Israel claims was due to pair fixing car on side of dimly lit West Bank highway

Muhannad (L) and Mohammad Muteir. (Courtesy)
Muhannad (L) and Mohammad Muteir. (Courtesy)

The United States on Sunday joined a call for an investigation into a deadly traffic incident over the weekend, in which an Israeli driver struck and killed two Palestinian brothers working on a disabled vehicle on the shoulder of a West Bank road.

The Palestinian Authority has called the Saturday collision, which took the lives of Mohammad and Muhannad Muteir from the Jerusalem-area Qalandiya refugee camp, an intentional ramming attack, while Israel Police says that it was an accident.

In a tweet on Sunday, the US embassy in Jerusalem’s Palestinian Affairs Office offered its condolences to the Muteir family and added, “We support a thorough police investigation into this tragedy.”

Israel Police opened an investigation into the incident, but said it believed, after its initial assessment, that the Israeli driver, a man in his 50s, accidentally hit the Palestinian brothers. The Israeli driver was briefly hospitalized after the collision.

The brothers were conducting repairs to their vehicle on the side of the road between the Rechelim and Tapuah Junctions.

Police said the Muteirs’ vehicle’s lights appeared to have been off while it was parked on the side of the dimly lit highway.

But the PA official news site Wafa characterized the collision as a “car-ramming attack,” with PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh branding it a “horrific crime.” Zakaria Fayala from the PA’s Jerusalem Governorate’s branch office in Qalandiya said in a statement that the driver deliberately sped up his car before striking the Muteirs.

The comment marked the second time in days that the US has pushed for action from Israel following the death of a Palestinian in the West Bank.

Jana Majdi Assam Zakarna, 16, who was killed during a gun battle between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Jenin, December 11, 2022. (Social media)

Last Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US “hope[d] to see accountability” after 16-year-old Jana Zakarna was shot and killed during an Israeli military raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. The IDF said a Border Police sniper was likely responsible for accidentally shooting Zakarna. She had been on the roof of her home as a fierce gun battle broke out during an operation to arrest three terror suspects, the IDF said.

The US has repeatedly expressed its alarm over the uptick in West Bank violence over the past several months, urging Israel and the PA to act and cooperate in order to restore calm.

The IDF has been conducting an ongoing major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank following a series of Palestinian attacks in the spring.

The operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left more than 165 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

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