Two Israeli Druze Men Convicted in 2015 Attack on Ambulance Carrying Wounded Syrians

Offenses carry maximum sentence of 20 years in prison

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Kamal Amar in Haifa District Court, Sept. 17, 2017
Kamal Amar in Haifa District Court, Sept. 17, 2017Credit: Rami Shlush
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

Two Druze men from Hurfeish in the Upper Galilee were convicted of intentionally endangering people’s lives for their involvement in an attack on a military ambulance carrying wounded Syrians in June 2015. The maximum sentence for their crime is 20 years in prison.

Kamal Amar and Yusuf Sharif were convicted in the Haifa District Court of willful endangerment as the ambulance passed through their town.

Amar was additionally convicted of pursuing the ambulance and using his car to create a roadblock; Sharif was convicted of being at the roadblock. Both men were acquitted of other offenses related to the events, including involvement in a different attack on the ambulance by masked men and throwing rocks at the vehicle.

At 1:30 A.M. on June 22, 2015, an Israeli military ambulance carrying two wounded Syrians passed through the main square of Hurfeish, where an assembled group of people threw rocks at the vehicle and attempted to stop it in order to identify its passengers. The ambulance slowed but passed through the crowd, with a number of cars in pursuit.

Amar’s car overtook the ambulance at one point and blocked its path. The ambulance driver, fearing for his life and those of his passengers, turned right and speeded up, hitting Sharif, before continuing on to the police station in the nearby town of Ma’alot. Neither the driver nor any of the passengers was injured in the incident.

A similar incident took place the next night in the Druze town of Majdal Shams on the northeastern Golan Heights, but in this case one of the wounded Syrians in the ambulance was dragged out of the vehicle and killed by the mob. The other wounded Syrian was also severely injured in the attack.

The Druze are actively opposed to the Israeli army’s provision of medical care to people wounded in the civil war in Syria without checking whether they belong to rebel organizations, including ones that threatening the lives of Druze in Syria.

In his sentence, Judge Thamar Sharon-Nethanel wrote that attacking an ambulance carrying wounded people in an attempt to stop it, including setting up a roadblock, is a grievous offense likable to lead to injuries, and the defendants knew that quite well.

In response to the defense lawyers’ claims that their clients were singled out among the dozens of people involved in the attacks, the judge said that while the investigation was far from perfect and it might have been possible to identify other attackers, she did not find that the police acted in bad faith or out of improper motives.

The judge said she did not believe the defendants’ claims they did not know the identities of others involved and without a doubt they could have aided the police in the investigation. This may be their right, but it greatly reduces their ability to claim a defense of selective enforcement against only the two of them, she said.

Amar’s lawyer said they will appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

Sharif’s lawyer told Haaretz that he had yet to study the entire 74-page decision, but noted his client was acquitted in two of the three incidents involved. After studying the ruling they will decide whether to appeal.

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