Israeli Suspected of Trying to Run Over Protesters Claims He Was on His Way to Netanyahu

22-year-old says he did not intend to hit protesters but rather to 'explain the coronavirus' to prime minister ■ Witness says car 'flew at' demonstrators

Josh Breiner
Nir Hasson
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The arrest of a suspect in a possible attempt to run over protesters in Jerusalem, September 20, 2020.
The arrest of a suspect in a possible attempt to run over protesters in Jerusalem, September 20, 2020.Credit: Assaf Sharon
Josh Breiner
Nir Hasson

The Jerusalem man who was arrested on Sunday night on suspicion of trying to run over protesters near the prime minister’s official residence told investigators that he was “on his way to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to explain the coronavirus to him.”

The 22-year-old said he did not intend to run over demonstrators and had stopped at a roadblock before he reached the area where the protests were held. On Monday morning, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered his detention extended for another two days, and for him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

Judge Yaron Mientkavich wrote in his ruling that “a reasonable suspicion exists that the suspect drove in an unruly manner that threatened the lives of those using the roads. He testifies that he used drugs on the morning of the incident. After his arrest he went wild and tried to attack police officers. Based on other material in the case, it seems he refused to be drug tested. He represents a threat and the possibility of obstruction of the investigation. He has four months left of a suspended sentence for traffic offenses against him,” wrote the judge.

Footage of the driver's arrest in Jerusalem.Credit: Oren Ziv/Local Call

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the lawyer representing the suspect, said of the case: “His mother warned a number of times about his psychological distress and he has a history of hospitalization. He agreed to a psychiatric examination. Given these circumstances, his mental state must be examined, and here is a person who needs treatment and medical help, but his intention was not to endanger lives.”

The suspect drove at a high speed near Paris Square in Jerusalem, the main protest site, and braked hard near the protesters. The police said he “drove at high speed with his car toward the police roadblock and put protesters and police officers in danger.”

A video of the incident showed his car screeching to a halt a few meters from the police and protesters. A police officer can also be seen leading him off to a bus holding those arrested at the protests, and hitting and choking him on the way.

One of the demonstrators, Shula Klein, said she saw a car speeding to run her over. She saw “a car flying and skidding, he skidded at some point and then straightened up and flew at us.” Klein said she screamed: “They’re running us over.”

Another protester who stood next to the police barrier said the man stooped at the roadblock and a police officer asked him where he was going. He told him: “'I’m going to Balfour [Street, where the prime minister's official residence is located]’ and before the policeman had a chance to do anything, he pressed on the gas and fled.”

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