Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan commented for the first time on Thursday on reports that a probe is expected to show that a Bedouin driver who had run over a police officer did not intend to carry out an attack, as was claimed by Israeli officials.
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The January incident took place during a Bedouin demonstration against the demolition of the unrecognized Negev village of Umm al-Hiran. At the demonstration, Yakub Abu al-Kiyan ran over officer Erez Levi before being killed by police gunfire.
Immediately after the incident, police asserted that the event was a car-ramming attack. On Thursday, Erdan said that "if it turns out that this wasn’t an attack, then of course his family must be apologized to."
On Wednesday, it was reported that the Justice Ministry's department for the investigation of police officers is set to announce in coming days that the Umm al-Hiran incident wasn’t an attack. Legal experts told Haaretz that the probe's findings are contrary to the police's position, according to which Kiyan was a terrorist who planned to run over policemen for political motives.
Erdan wrote on Facebook that the initial police probe after the incident, and the testimonies of policemen at the site, indicated that it was a car-ramming attack. "No one has any other information source other than the police forces on the ground, and I, as a minister who wasn’t at the scene, can only rely on the police," he wrote, adding that he is backs the police.
However, he added, lessons must be learned from the case when the investigations department completes its probe and publishes it findings.
"Is it possible that mistakes were made in the difficult and complex case that took place there? Possibly, especially in a complex situation like the one the forces were in.
"If it turns out that there were errors here or that it wasn’t an attack, we must learn from it, and I will make sure that the lessons will be learned and that what needs to be fixed will be fixed."
Erdan did not backtrack in his comments on his accusations against Joint List Knesset members, some of whom were present at the incident. "The Arab Knesset members led by Ayman Odeh who incited residents in the months prior to the incident produced a widespread public and media campaign whose whole aim was to deter the police and myself from the ongoing enforcement against illegal constructions. They did not shy away from any inciting expression against the state and its representatives," he wrote.
According to Erdan, despite the Arab lawmakers' "campaign of hatred and incitement," all of the police's comments after the incident were aimed at Kiyan himself and not at the general Arab public – "there were no generalizations," he added.