Shin Bet: West Bank Hit-and-run This Month Was Terror, Not Accident

Israeli security service says a 23-year-old Hamas member has confessed to ramming his car into three soldiers.

Emil Salman

The hit-and-run incident that wounded three soldiers in the West Bank two weeks ago was a deliberate attack rather than an accident, and the suspect — who has confessed — will be indicted in a few days, the Shin Bet security service said Thursday.

Shortly after the incident, which took place in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc on November 5, a defense official said the event seemed to be an ordinary accident. But the Shin Bet’s interrogation has suggested otherwise.

The suspect turned himself into the police a day after the incident and initially denied that it was a deliberate attack. “I don’t know many terrorists who turn themselves into the army,” a defense official told Haaretz at the time.

But the Shin Bet was more cautious, saying it was still investigating. On Thursday, it named the suspect as Hammam Masalma, a 23-year-old Hamas member from the village of Beit Awwa near Hebron.

The agency said Masalma confessed under interrogation that the incident was an attack, inspired by a similar attack in Jerusalem earlier that day. He said he was motivated by the recent tensions in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as his anger over the war with Hamas in Gaza this summer.

Masalma reenacted the attack, the Shin Bet said, and confessed to planning other attacks before his arrest.

“Masalma initially tried to disguise the attack as a traffic accident, but under interrogation he admitted that it was a terror attack,” the agency said in a statement. “He also admitted that he had decided some time ago to commit an attack on soldiers.”

Before the Shin Bet’s announcement, the army informed the soldiers’ families of the new assessment.

The attack took place while the soldiers were standing outside an army pillbox on Route 60, near the Al-Arroub refugee camp. All three soldiers were hospitalized – one in serious, one in moderate and one in good condition. The car used was found in the refugee camp a few hours later.

Earlier that day, a Palestinian had rammed his vehicle into people waiting at a bus stop near Jerusalem’s light rail, killing border policeman Jidan Assad of Beit Jann and wounding 13 other people. Both attacks were preceded by an October 23 attack in which a Palestinian rammed his car into passengers waiting at a light-rail stop in the capital, killing a 3-month-old baby and a 22-year-old woman.