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Israel: 7 cops hurt, police car overturned at violent protests over settler teen’s death

Seven policemen were injured Saturday night as clashes broke out in Jerusalem between cops and over 1,000 protesters demonstrating over the death of a teenage settler in a car crash during a police chase last month.

At least 20 demonstrators were arrested.

Police said officers were injured by rocks and other objects thrown at them in the rally near the offices of the Police Internal Investigations Department in Har Hotzvim. Damage was caused to road infrastructure and public property in the area and a police cruiser was overturned while others were vandalized, according to a police statement.

Protesters called “not to whitewash the murder” of 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak and to “close down Judea and Samaria District,” the name for the police force overseeing West Bank settlements.

According to the Ynet news site, some called out “Careful officer, Rabin’s looking for a friend” — a threat referencing the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist.

Activists are demanding the formation of a committee to probe Sandak’s death.

Speaking at the rally, Rabbi Dov Lior, the former chief rabbi of the Kiryat Arba settlement, said police must “take responsibility for this murder” and called for an outside investigation of the police force.

Sandak’s death on December 21 has ignited near-nightly protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Demonstrators have thrown stones, attacked buses, vandalized cars and blocked major thoroughfares.

Some have also attacked Arab civilians. In turn, police have responded forcefully, with reports of police violence toward demonstrators.

Sandak was killed in a crash as police chased his car, after he and four others allegedly hurled rocks at Palestinian vehicles and attempted to flee from the cops. Police have said the five young men’s vehicle lost control and overturned, while settlers have claimed the crash was caused by a police car ramming the vehicle.

Some 300 arrests have taken place at demonstrations so far, according to statements released by police. No clear number has been given for people charged with violence at the rallies.

The Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has questioned the officers involved in the incident. But Channel 12 reported Saturday that they are not expected to face criminal charges.

Meanwhile the network said the four other so-called hilltop youth extremists who were in the car with Sandak are expected to be charged this week for throwing rocks at Palestinian cars, and at least one of them may also be indicted for negligent homicide in Sandak’s death.

On Thursday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Sandak’s parents, extending his condolences and inviting them to his office, while they invited him to visit their hometown of Bat Ayin in the West Bank.

“The truth about the circumstances of your son’s death will come to light,” Netanyahu was quoted by Kan News as saying during the phone call.

Also Thursday, a group of 19 right-wing lawmakers sent a letter to Public Minister Amir Ohana calling for an external investigative committee to probe police conduct in the incident.

The deadly car crash came hours after an Israeli woman, Esther Horgen, was found dead in a northern West Bank forest where she had gone for a run a day earlier, apparently after she was killed violently.

Horgen’s murder sparked several days of tension in the West Bank. Military sources told the Walla news site that they feared Horgen’s death could spark a series of revenge attacks by the settler youth on Palestinians and further inflame the already tense situation in the West Bank.

The Israeli security services reported 13 incidents of stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians in the days immediately following Horgen’s murder. The Yesh Din rights group has claimed an additional seven stone-throwing attacks by settlers during the past week.

A security source told reporters anonymously on Wednesday that the police were “losing control” of the situation, even as “violence [by settlers] against Palestinians and security forces has reached new heights.”

Header: People protest over the death of Ahuvia Sandak in a car crash during a police chase, near the Police Internal Investigations Department in Jerusalem on January 2, 2021 (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Source: TOI