An Egged Ta'avura bus driver was attacked early Sunday morning while driving a bus from Jerusalem to Kiryat Arba.
Saleh Abu Jamal, 26, from Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem, suffered a head injury and was taken to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in the capital for treatment.
"In his complaint, the driver said that around 5am, while driving an Egged night bus from Jerusalem to Kiryat Arba, several drunken youths began urging him to get to the settlement (faster). He explained that the weather conditions did not allow that, and they then started swearing at him and hit him in the face," police said.
"At the entrance to Kiryat Arba, (Abu Jamal) stopped the bus and was able to call the police center and report it after another passenger came to his aid and separated between him and the attackers. As a result of the assault, he was lightly bruised in his head and was taken to receive medical treatment. Police forces that arrived at the scene detained for questioning two youths (aged 19 and 21) residents of Kiryat Arba on suspicion of attacking the driver," police added.
Abu Jamal said the passengers began interrupting him during the drive. He asked them to stop, to no avail. "They started swearing at me, told me, 'Keep driving. You Arab, what are you doing here?' I told them to keep quiet, otherwise I wouldn't be able to continue the drive," he said.
"They ignored my request and continued cursing at me for no reason. I called the coordinator and informed him about settlers who were interrupting me. He asked that I go to the Egged parking lot, and that is where I went immediately upon arriving in the city," Abu Jamal recounted.
"As I was turning to head to the parking lot, the settlers told me, 'Where are you going? Keep driving, you have to take us where we want to go.' I told them I couldn't in a situation like this. At that moment, they took the bag that holds the money and several other things and started threatening me. One of them, who claimed he was a soldier, hit me in the head and bruised me. After that I stopped at the parking lot, and I was evacuated to the hospital from there," he said.
Abu Jamal claimed he did not tell the police his attackers were drunk. "I don't know why the police made such a claim. They were acting normally, not under the influence of alcohol. In my opinion, this is a racist act. The swearing and the threatening I experienced point to a racist act," he asserted.
"Now I'm afraid to go back to work on the same line. This time I was lightly wounded, but next time it could end in disaster," Abu Jamal concluded.
The police said its officers will "continue acting with zero tolerance and with determination against those who use violence against service providers and public employees. We will use any means at our disposal to catch the attackers and bring them to justice in order to protect the security and well-being of citizens."
Egged Ta'avura, a subsidiary of Egged, said, "This serious incident is another case in a long line of intolerable incidents in which bus drivers were attacked. We consider any use of violence against drivers to be very grave.
"We turned to the Kiryat Arba council and to law enforcement officials in the area in order to work together to eradicate this phenomenon. We trust the Israel Police and call on passengers to remember that if any complaint arises, they should turn to the company and not break the law."