Two Soldiers, Border Police Officer Wounded in Car-ramming in Northern Israeli City of Acre

One wounded near city market, two wounded near railway station. Police say incident was politically motivated and a 'third individual' fired at the driver, who was critically wounded

Ramming scene in Acre, March 4, 2018.
Rami Shllush

An Israeli Border Police officer and two soldiers were lightly wounded in car-rammings in two different incidents in the northern Israeli city of Acre. The ramming jeep hit a Border Police officer on Yehoshafat St. near the city market, then drove on and struck two IDF soldiers near the city railway station.

The driver was shot and is in critical condition. According to police, "a third individual indentified the ramming and opened fire at the jeep." Police say that the motivation behind the incident was political.

The suspect's family reject the claim that the attack was politically motivated. Speaking to Haaretz, the perpetrator's father said that inside the car his son was driving was his daughter-in-law, who is heavily pregnant and seeks medical care several times a week. "Who would decide to carry out a terror attack and then take his pregnant wife with him?" the father charged.

According to him, the only explanation for the incident was that his son got upset over a traffic ticket and acted out: "I understand that he received a ticket for 1,000 shekels ($290) and it really angered him. We're a family that is not related to anything political and he works with me and all that he cares for is his home and work. He was waiting for his wife to give birth in the coming days."

Many family members and friends gathered around the family home in Shefa-'Amr, all expressing shock at the incident. In the afternoon, multiple police forces were dispatched to the house to conduct a search.

An acquaintance of the suspect said that the latter comes from a family leading a religious lifestyle. The mayor of Shefa-'Amr, the Arab city in northern Israel that the suspect hails from, told Haaretz that "The family is known as a completely normal family."

The police contradicted this claim, stating that "an investigation of the incident reveals, including the findings from the scene and footage documenting it, that it was a politically-motivated terror attack. According to initial findings, it appears that there were several attempts by the driver- an Israeli Arab [who has an Israeli ID] who is not a resident of Acre- to run over security forces in several scenes, specifically targeting policemen and soldiers. The Israel Police will continue to investigate the circumstances of the attack."

Magen David Adom emergency responders have taken three 20-year-olds to Galilee Hospital in Nahariya. A medic at the scene said: “When I arrived near the train station I saw two 20-year olds, fully conscious. They lay by the side of the road and had light bruises on their heads and limbs. I gave them initial medical treatment and we evacuated them."

An Acre resident who sat in a cafe near the market told Haaretz that he heard shots fired and people screaming, with everyone in the area running toward the scene. “I saw the two soldiers lie down and get up on their own. The attacker was in the car.”

Shfaram Mayor Amin Anabtawi told Haaretz he received an update from the police, saying the driver rampaged after getting a traffic citation. According to Anabtawi, the driver’s family is known originally from the village Dir al-Asad and have relatives in Shfaram. “They’re known to be completely normative,” he said.

Shimon Cohen, an Acre resident at the scene, told Haaretz that the man in the jeep got a traffic citation. “The incident started by the market, he mounted the curb and hit the Border Police officer. The officer tried to shoot him and failed, and then the man drove off to the train station. A soldier cocked his weapon and fired at him.”

“We don’t have things like that here. I sit and smoke a hookah with my Arab friends. I don’t know where that guy is from, definitely not from Acre. we don’t have things like that.”

Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad praised the attack in Acre on Sunday evening, with Hamas extolling it as a "manly and brave action" and stating that "the Israeli government carries the responsibility over its extreme and racist policy."

Jack Khoury contributed to this report.