Police officers raided the homes of twelve suspects, including five minors, on Thursday morning, arresting them for their suspected involvement in an attack on a transport van driver that led to a man's death on Sunday during violent ultra-Orthodox protests in Jerusalem, the Israel Police said on Thursday morning.
The driver, Ibrahim Hamed, a resident of East Jerusalem, was attacked at an ultra-Orthodox protest near the Education Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem, then tried to escape the area and hit 47-year-old Itamar Ben Abu, according to authorities. Ben Abu was taken in critical condition to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
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Police said that the driver had “fled the scene” but was located and arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. He was released from custody 36 hours later. At Hamed's hearing, a police spokesman said that "the suspect encountered a Purim commotion, there was an assault on his vehicle, he was seen running over and fleeing the scene."
"A group of criminals got up on to the vehicle and started attacking it," Hamed's lawyers told the court, claiming that he was attacked by protesters while he was in his van "Someone came up on him from behind while he was in the car, grabbed him and strangled him. People were kicking him and beating him from all directions. This is a lynching."
Hamed's lawyers also claimed that the only reason Hamed was arrested was because he is an Arab. "Instead of conducting searches for the person who caused the death of the Orthodox Jew – who, by the way, are his friends, they choose to arrest the driver - the victim. He is arrested only because he is an Arab. If the criminals were Arabs, the police would close down the whole city until they were arrested."
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Mid-morning Thursday, police officers arrested another two individuals suspected of attacking a Magen David Adom ambulance earlier this week, causing it damage and delaying the ambulance, which was en route to the hospital with a pregnant woman in apparent danger in tow.
On Sunday, dozens of members of some of the city’s extreme ultra-Orthodox communities had been demonstrating in front of the Education Ministry building while a press conference was being held there by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Yoav Gallant, who announced that the government was planning to extend the school year following school closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
Sunday's incident came a month after protesters against police enforcement of coronavirus regulations in the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak pepper sprayed a bus driver and set the bus on fire. Earlier, protesters who had gathered near the city’s central synagogue threw stones at police, prompting one to fire his gun in the air, saying he feared for his life. Police used stun grenades to try to disperse the crowds of hundreds.