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West Bank van attack was terror, not accident, IDF says

Army updates parents of 3 soldiers injured when commercial vehicle smashed into them on November 5; officials had previously said crash might have been inadvertant

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Israeli soldiers stand near a ambulance at the scene of what police suspect was a terrorist attack in which three soldiers were run down by a Palestinian driver on November 5, 2014. (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers stand near a ambulance at the scene of what police suspect was a terrorist attack in which three soldiers were run down by a Palestinian driver on November 5, 2014. (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

hit-and-run incident in which three Israeli soldiers were struck by a van in the West Bank was indeed a terror attack and not a car accident, the IDF has determinedaccording to a Thursday report.

The army informed the families of the three soldiers who were injured in the November 5 van attack in the Etzion Bloc region of the West Bank, south of Jerusalem, that the incident was nationalistically motivated, after wrapping up a two-week investigation into the incident, Channel 2 reported.

A day after the attack, a senior security official said the attack may have been a car accident, according to Israeli media reports. The driver of the van, Hamam Mesalmeh, turned himself in to Israeli authorities on November 6, ending 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.

But the parents of the three wounded soldiers maintained all along, based on the footage of the incident, that it was a deliberate attack. On November 9, Roni Aharoni said that his son, Moshe Aharoni, who was seriously injured in the hit-and-run, told him that the driver of the commercial van had accelerated as he barreled into the soldiers.

A graphic video of the incident posted online clearly shows the Palestinian vehicle hitting three soldiers.

The parents of injured IDF soldier Moshe Aharoni speak to the media outside the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital emergency unit where Moshe is hospitalized, on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
The parents of injured IDF soldier Moshe Aharoni speak to the media outside the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital emergency unit where Moshe was hospitalized, on November 9, 2014. (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The crash, in which one soldier was seriously injured and two moderately, occurred outside the Palestinian refugee camp of al-Aroub south of Jerusalem just after 10 p.m.

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. Yeshiva student Shalom Ba’adani, 17, was critically hurt in that attack and succumbed to his wounds several days later.

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

IDF troops launched a full-scale search following the incident, arresting the driver’s father, brother, and 15 other Palestinians in raids across the West Bank before Mesalmeh turned himself in.

Tamar Pileggi and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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