BETHLEHEM, Nov 7 — A Palestinian man suspected of having run over three Israeli soldiers on Wednesday evening turned himself in to “security forces,” the Israeli military said in a statement on Thursday.
Earlier, Israeli forces had carried out raids across the southern West Bank to find the man, who had been identified as Hammam Masalma.
Four of Masalma’s relatives were detained from the southern West Bank town of Beit Awwa early Thursday, after Israeli forces raided the area and found no sign of Hammam.
Palestinian security sources said Israeli troops erected several military checkpoints around Beit Awwa west of Hebron before ransacking the home of Hammam Masalma, who they believed deliberately attacked the soldiers.
Masalma, however, was not at home at the time of the raid. As a result, Israeli troops decided to detain his relatives Muhammad Jamal Shalash Masalma, Subhi Shalash Masalma, Issa Khalil Masalma, and Ismail Subhi Masalma instead.
The Israeli soldiers also ransacked and inspected homes of Jamil Badawi Masalma and Abdul-Qadir Ismail Masalma.
Israeli police sources say that they managed to identify the truck driver from the vehicle’s registration data.
Separately, Israeli forces detained Ahmad Muhammad Thiab Abu Salih, 34, from Dura just west of Hebron. He was detained near the village of Tuqu east of Bethlehem. Security sources say he has Turkish nationality.
Israeli forces also stormed the city of Yatta south of Hebron and ransacked several homes for inspection.
The hit-and-run incident on the main Bethlehem-Hebron road on Wednesday night was the third such vehicular attack on Israeli soldiers and civilians in recent weeks, although the previous two took place in Jerusalem.
Palestinians, however, have decried the “double standards” around the incidents, noting that Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank regularly run over locals — including many children — but are never accused of terrorism as a result.
In a notable incident, in October an Israeli settler ran over two children near the northern West Bank town of Sinjil, killing 5-year-old Einas Khalil. The case was only the latest in a series of Israeli settler hit-and-runs on major Palestinian roads, but failed to garner widespread attention in the Israeli media.
The Israeli authorities, however, have deemed the recent vehicular attacks in Jerusalem, which left a policeman and a child dead, as “terrorist attacks” and have clamped down strongly on Palestinian neighborhoods, sparking daily clashes.
In late October, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat blamed Israel for rising anger and for provoking the Palestinian public, noting that Israeli authorities have allowed Jewish settlers to take over homes in Palestinian neighborhoods, have announced plans to build thousands of units for Jews in the city while ignoring Palestinian residents, and have generally looked the other way at rising violence by Jewish civilians against Palestinians across the city.
“We regret all loss of life. At the same time we reiterate that the Israeli occupation of Palestine remains the main source of violence and instability in the region,” he said.
“Palestinian citizens continue to be oppressed, imprisoned, injured and killed by the occupation forces, with impunity and the full backing of the Israeli government,” he continued.