Police have arrested five suspects over the beating of an Arab bus driver in Israel’s north earlier this week.
Shahdi Hadar, an Arab Israeli citizen, was hospitalized on Monday after a number of passengers assaulted him during the route from Tiberias to Yavniel. Hadar, 27, from the village of Wadi Hamam near Tiberias, is suffering from head injuries, and two of his teeth were broken. He was admitted to the nearby Poriya Medical center and released on Wednesday.
The police have arrested five suspects, two are 17-year-olds, two are 18 and one is 25. Two of the suspects were remanded on Wednesday in the Nazareth Magistrates Court until Thursday. The court will hear the police’s request Thursday to extend the remand of the other three suspects.
The assault occurred Monday evening. Hadar, a driver for Connex, the bus company that operates public transportation in Tiberias and its surrounding areas, left the city at 6:30 A.M. on the number 32 bus. Hadar said the incident occurred after a young man had boarded and inserted his bus ticket in the electronic reader in an aggressive manner. “I asked him to do it gently and in response he cursed me,” he said. Then, he added, the man used a vulgar insult and threatened to harm him, so he decided not to respond and started driving.
The passenger and his friends then sat on the back bench of the bus and all the way to Yavniel cursed and taunted the driver. They called him a “dirty Arab,” said Mahmid Hadar, the driver’s father. Shadi Hadar had a hard time repeating the vulgarities and said he hopes it was not a case of racism. “All my life I have lived with Jews and I have an excellent relationship with many, who also came to visit me in the hospital. I don’t want to talk about racism,” he said.
Upon their arrival in Yavniel, Hadar said, four or five of the passengers assaulted him, the same ones who cursed him before. “They pulled me from the wheel, kicked me in the stomach and head and broke my teeth. I felt I was losing my strength and all this time I thought only how to reach the brakes and prevent a big disaster,” he said. Hadar said he managed to stop the bus and the attackers got off.
One of the suspects said the attack was in response to the driver’s curses at them, which led to the fight.
Hadar said that none of the 40 passengers tried to stop the attackers or offer help. “I asked one of the passengers if he knew the attackers and said he does, but would not tell me who they were,” he said. The driver said that the young men appeared religious and suggested that they are linked to the Breslov Hassidic community in Yavniel.
A woman outside the bus called for an ambulance and the police. Hadar said he collapsed and lost consciousness, and only woke up at the hospital.