An incident from two weeks ago in which a Palestinian driving a large vehicle rammed his car into three IDF soldiers standing near a pillbox in the West Bank was a Hamas-organized terror attack and not a car accident, as some had claimed, the Shin Bet said Thursday.
The incident took place on November 5th and inspired a slew of conflicting reports, with some in the IDF saying it was a car accident and others, like the victims' families, claiming it was a terror attack.
The Shin Bet, together with the police and IDF, arrested Hamam Jamal Masalmeh, a 23-year-old Hamas operative from the Palestinian village of Beit Awa near Hebron for his role in the Gush Etzion terror attack some two years ago, which wounded three soldiers.
In his investigation, Masalmeh, a Hamas man, admitted to running the soldiers over and said the attack was planned. "During interrogation by the Shin Bet (security service), Hamam Masalmeh confessed to running down the soldiers as part of a planned attack," a joint statement saidIt added that the accused was an activist in Islamist militant group Hamas.
Masalmeh turned himself in the day after the nightime attack insisting it had been a road accident.
In the attack, the second vehicular attack that day, a Masalmeh hit three IDF soldiers standing near a pillbox by al-Arroub in the West Bank. One suffered moderate-to-severe injuries and the other two were moderately wounded.
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Speaking to AFP, Masalmeh's uncle Omar said this was an accident, and that his nephew lost control of his car.
Roni, the father of soldier Moshe Aharoni who was seriously injured in the incident, told Ynet on Sunday: "Our son was clearly intentionally run over by a miscreant."
Aharoni said his son recounted the incident to his parents. "He told us, 'I saw the eyes of evil and I heard the roar of the engine speeding up before he ran into us.'
"The terrorist joins his brothers, who have already committed similar acts in different places in Israel. Our son's blood is crying out. We've been here for hours facing uncertainty and this miscreant is hiding under a blunt lie that he was probably coached to say by some wise men."
The incident was documented by a security camera that shows a large van directly hitting three soldiers standing next to a pillbox near the al-Arroub refugee camp.
For half a day later, security forces believed this was a vehicular terror attack but the next day - after the driver turned himself in - a senior security source said investigation found this was in fact a hit-and-run accident.
"I just want to remind you of the many 'accidents' we had with tractors and on the train," the father said. "We're amazed to see the backing (the driver) got from that anonymous security source.
"I invite him to come to the room where my son lies, look us in the eye and tell us this was an accident. We're waiting. Everyone - from the company commander to higher-ranked officers - are telling me this is a distinct terror attack. Anyone who has seen the video says this is an attempted murder. Those hiding behind the claim it's an accident are backing that evil terrorist."
The father went on to say that military source who said the incident was a hit-and-run was doing it "out of interests that are not in the benefit of the people of Israel. He has an agenda, or the desire to be promoted, some kind of political gain. Perhaps there's an issue to sweep under the rug, so the statistics show less incidents of failure."
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report