A security camera captured the horrific moment late Wednesday when a van plowed into three Israeli soldiers standing on the side of a road near Bethlehem, but the driver said it was an accident and not another intentional Palestinian automobile attack on Israeli pedestrians
The hit-and-run left one soldier in critical condition and two others with moderate wounds, Israel Defense Forces Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.
Israeli news outlets reported that the driver of the van, a Palestinian from the Hebron area, turned himself in on Thursday, telling officials he lost control of his vehicle and then panicked and fled the scene.
The IDF initially characterized the incident as an intentional assault, while Hamas praised the driver for what it said was an attack on soldiers, the Times of Israel reported.
Earlier Wednesday, a Palestinian driver killed Israeli border policeman Jedan Assad and wounded 14 others when he smashed his vehicle into pedestrians at a Jerusalem light rail station before emerging from his car swinging a metal rod to target passersby. Assad, 38, left behind a pregnant wife.
Two weeks ago, another Palestinian driver rammed his car into bystanders at a Jerusalem light rail station, killing a 3-month-old U.S. citizen and a 22-year-old woman.
Israel Radio’s Arab Affairs correspondent Gal Berger tweeted images from a new Palestinian social media campaign encouraging Palestinians to use their cars to attack Israelis.
a new palestinian campaign in social media: use the car as a weapon in order to attack israelis pic.twitter.com/P9YcLa4p39— Gal Berger גל ברגר (@galberger) November 6, 2014
The Times of Israel noted that the campaign, called “Daas,” which means “run over,” is similar to the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group, “Daesh.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman blamed the surging violence against Israelis in Jerusalem on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who over the weekend sent a letter of condolences to the family of Islamic Jihad operative Muataz Hijazi.
Israeli police say Hijazi shot a Jewish activist at point-blank range on a Jerusalem street last week before being killed in a shootout with anti-terror police who came to arrest him.
“It’s really violence, violence initiated by the Palestinian Authority,” Liberman told Israel Army Radio Thursday morning. “We see here the penetration of the Palestinian Authority, Abu-Mazen [Abbas] and extremist Islamic players. Abbas’ letter to an Islamic Jihad activist [Hijazi], to his family, giving a monetary prize to the family of the same terrorist, all this absolutely encourages the Palestinian violence.”
Liberman pointed out that the violence targeting Israelis is just one example of a global trend of Islamist violence that has also struck European and North American cities including Brussels and Ottawa.
“There is absolutely a foul wave passing through the entire world … and we’re situated right in the center of all this violence and extremism, nationalist- religious extremism, and we tackle it much better than others,” Liberman said.
“There should be no illusions. It’s part of an international phenomenon and regional phenomenon,” the foreign minister added.
Hamas described the first hit-and-run Wednesday in Jerusalem as “heroic” and called for more violence.