Honenu to police: Terror attack, not accident

One of the victims; Photo courtesy of the photographer

Sunday, April 30, 2023, 8:40 Honenu Attorney Ophir Steiner has written to the Israel Police – see below – requesting that they open an investigation of the incident in which several Hareidi Jews vacationing near the “Jordan River Rafting” tourist site were run over by a bus in late April. Several eyewitnesses claim that they were run over intentionally, in a nationalistically motivated act, and not as a result of the bus accidentally rolling down a slope.

Attorney Steiner stated, “We were approached by many eyewitnesses, all of whom say that the driver suddenly accelerated and turned the steering wheel directly at a group of dozens of youth. We were shocked to hear from them that the police officers who arrived at the scene refused to take their testimony and instead attempted to ‘wrap up’ the incident as quickly as possible by labeling it as an accident. The police must immediately start a criminal investigation of the driver and listen to the testimonies of the eyewitnesses who describe how the driver intentionally ran over the group of youths.”

The letter includes testimonies from the vacationers: “The main victim was vacationing at the tourist site with his son and several dozen yeshiva students, most of them minors. After they had finished kayaking, the group intended to board the buses provided by the tourist site and continue to the next location on the planned trip. There was one bus at the entrance of the site that was already almost full and another bus that had not started to board passengers. The central victim was standing at the door of the full bus, whereas the rest of the group was waiting for the arrival of another bus.

“A third bus arrived at the site, and the driver stopped, as if intending to board passengers. However, when the group started to approach it, the bus suddenly lurched forward, speeding directly toward the youths who were standing nearby. The central victim warned the youths, who fled in all directions, but some of them were not able to escape in time and were injured by the bus. The central victim suffered a direct hit from the bus that knocked him to the ground and ran over his lower body. The bus then stopped, resting on the right leg of the victim, and remained there until his son and the others yelled at the driver to move the bus. Then, the driver moved the bus a few meters forward and stopped again. The driver let go of the steering wheel and did not leave the bus until police officers arrived.”

Attorney Steiner further stated how the eyewitnesses complained to the police about what they perceived as the nationalistic motivation of the driver in causing the injuries, but the police did not pay any attention to their claims and did not take their testimonies: “When the police officers arrived on the scene, the driver gave his testimony, according to which he lost control of the bus, which rolled backward. This is what the officers told the eyewitnesses who tried to testify that the incident was an act of terror. To the shock of everyone present, the officers refused to take the eyewitness’s testimonies or officially record their complaints. Some of them were told that it was a ‘regrettable accident’ and ordered to step aside and allow the officers to deal with the scene. They were not allowed to give their testimonies.

“The central victim, and others who turned to the undersigned, voiced their unequivocal testimony that the driver drove forward, speeding directly toward the youths. The eyewitnesses say that they saw him turn the steering wheel straight towards the group of youths, while the expression on his face clearly indicated his intent to injure them. The brakes on the bus seemed in good repair as the driver was able to stop immediately after he hit the victim, who was standing at the back of the group, then continue to drive several meters forward before stopping again.” At the conclusion of his letter, Attorney Steiner demanded that the police immediately investigate the incident and take testimonies from all of the eyewitnesses.

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