Analysis

Israel Police Quick to Cry 'Terror' Amid Clashes in Bedouin Town

Growing evidence, including video from a police helicopter and statements from eyewitnesses and relatives of the alleged attacker cast doubt on the earlier certainty voiced by the police.

New police video raises question about alleged car-ramming attack by Bedouin

The Israel Police hastened to publish their version of the events in the Bedouin town of Umm al-Hiran Wednesday morning, according to which a civilian was shot to death after deliberately crashing his car into a group of police officers, killing one and injuring another. But growing evidence, including video from a police helicopter and statements from eyewitnesses and relatives of the alleged attacker cast doubt on the certainty voiced by the police.

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The police video seems to show officers shooting at Yakub Abu al-Kiyan as he drove his car slowly, before the vehicle accelerated and hit the group of police personnel, killing Sgt. Maj. Erez Levi.

A police spokeswoman, Commander Merav Lapidot, said that Wednesday's events began with a car- ramming attack, after which clashes erupted between local residents and police officers dispatched to the scene. Lapidot adhered to this version in numerous interviews during the day.

“The car barreled into the police troops to carry out a terror attack,” she said, noting “the terrorist is an Islamic Movement activist.”

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Violent clashes between police forces and residents in Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017 N/A

A few hours after the incident, police officials began claiming that Abu al-Kiyan had ties to the Islamic State movement. As proof, they showed images taken in his home of copies of the Hebrew daily Yisrael Hayom, with front-page headlines reporting a car-ramming attack in Hebron and sabotage by the Islamic State of a Russian airplane.

“Everyone knows the terrorist was a teacher in a school, six of whose teachers, who chose to teach Islamic State ideology, have already been arrested,” Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh said.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Wednesday accused Arab Knesset members of whipping up anti-Israel sentiment among Bedouin. Senior police officers, meanwhile, held covert talks with Bedouin community leaders in a bid to promote calm.

“This blood is also on your hands,” Erdan wrote on Facebook, addressing MKs from the mainly Arab Joint List.

“I hope this day won’t mark a turning point in Bedouin relations with the state authorities, but if it does, MK Ayman Odeh has made a considerable contribution to it,” Erdan said in one press release. In three subsequent statements, Erdan reiterated his claim of Joint List MKs’ responsibility for the events and called for Odeh, the party chairman, to be investigated on suspicion of incitement, violence and obstructing the duties of police officers.