West Bank hit and run may not have been terror — official
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West Bank hit and run may not have been terror — official

Driver of van that smashed into three soldiers south of Jerusalem turns himself in to the IDF, says he lost control of the vehicle

Israeli soldiers seen at the entrance to the Palestinian village of Al Aroub, West Bank, where three Israeli soldiers were injured Wednesday in a hit-and-run near the Gush Etzion junction, November 05, 2014. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers seen at the entrance to the Palestinian village of Al Aroub, West Bank, where three Israeli soldiers were injured Wednesday in a hit-and-run near the Gush Etzion junction, November 05, 2014. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A van that plowed through a group of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank Wednesday night may have been a traffic accident and not a terror attack as initially suspected, a senior security official said Thursday.

The driver of the van, Hamam Mesalmeh, turned himself in to the Etzion District Coordinating Office Thursday after a manhunt following the incident.

Mesalmeh told officials that he lost control of the large commercial vehicle he was driving, and panicked when he realized he had hit Israeli soldiers and fled the scene.

Three soldiers were injured in the incident, one seriously and two moderately.

The crash occurred outside the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Aroun south of Jerusalem just after 10 p.m. Wednesday.

A police spokesman said Wednesday night that officials were treating the incident as a possible terrorist attack.

IDF troops launched a full-scale manhunt following the incident, arresting the driver’s father, brother, and 15 other Palestinians in raids across the West Bank overnight Wednesday.

A graphic video of the incident posted online clearly shows the Palestinian vehicle hitting three soldiers, who were standing by the side of Route 60 near al-Aroub.

The van does not appear to slow down after hitting the soldiers and drives out of frame.

The vehicle was identified as a large white commercial truck, and a van matching the description was later found by IDF troops.

The crash came hours after a terror attack in which an East Jerusalem man, a member of Hamas, rammed his vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing a Border Police guard. The killer, Ibrahim al-Akary, was shot dead by police after getting out of his van and attacking people with a metal rod.

That attack, which followed a near identical incident two weeks earlier, ratcheted up tensions in East Jerusalem, setting off clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces in flashpoint neighborhoods in the capital.

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