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Palestinians Hurt In Protests Of Israeli Teen's Death Caused By A Police Chase


The familiar story of a police car chase ending in tragedy takes a twist when it's in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Even though Palestinians were not the target of the chase, some have ended up paying a price. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: In late December, Israeli police were reportedly speeding after young Israeli settlers suspected of throwing rocks at Palestinians. In the chase, the settlers' car flipped over, killing one of them, 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandack. It's caused fury.


ESTRIN: Night after night, young settlers and their friends protested at major intersections. At some, they directed their anger at Palestinians, blocking traffic, throwing stones at their passing cars on about 40 different occasions. That's according to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. It's collected videos of this.



UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: It says this video shows a 5-year-old Palestinian boy treated by medics after a rock smashed through the car window. Israeli police confirmed to NPR there has been rock-throwing and say they have made some arrests, but they still allowed these gatherings, which have quieted down now after a month and a half.

AMIR: (Speaking Hebrew).

ESTRIN: At a Jerusalem protest, I meet a group of young Israeli teenagers. Thirteen-year-old Amir says he does not condone the stone-throwing. We're only using his first name to protect his identity because he's unaccompanied by a parent.

AMIR: (Through interpreter) It's not right. Throwing stones is immoral.

ESTRIN: But he explains why some of his peers do it. They believe police are tough on settlers and soft on Palestinians.

AMIR: (Through interpreter) People want to avenge the injustice. Arabs throw rocks at Jews, and the police don't do anything. So they say if police aren't doing anything, we will.

ESTRIN: Palestinians have thrown stones at Israelis and attacked them. One was accused of killing a woman jogging in December. He was arrested and his home demolished. Now, after that and the car chase, the human rights monitoring group Yesh Din says police have given settlers a free pass on these rock-throwing incidents, giving them, quote, "near complete immunity from prosecution" while terrifying a population. It's also documented at least 10 times recently when Israeli settlers approached villages and attacked Palestinian residents and homes. We visit one.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

ESTRIN: The Eid family is building this two-story house at the top of Burin village. It's got a panoramic view of a lush valley carpeted in almond and olive trees, a view the family's going to see through metal bars, like a jail. They put bars on all the windows a few weeks ago to protect them from stoning by Israeli settlers on the hill just behind them. Nineteen-year-old Anas Eid says that happened a few Saturdays ago.

ANAS EID: (Through interpreter) Suddenly, I heard a sound, and I thought that somebody was there. I walk out, and I find that a group of settlers had come so close to the house. They started cursing me and saying bad words. And I would also answer them with bad words.

ESTRIN: Israeli settlers walked down the slope, hurling rocks. Field researcher Moneer Kadus from the human rights monitoring group lives a few houses away and caught it on tape.


MONEER KADUS: (Through interpreter) Soldiers tried to stop them but did not succeed. This is a Saturday. On a Saturday, you attack people? How can any Jewish religious person explain that on the Sabbath?

ESTRIN: Nineteen-year-old Eid says he and other young Palestinian villagers started throwing rocks back.

EID: (Speaking Arabic).

ESTRIN: He says, "I was so mad, if I would've caught one of them, I'd feel like killing them." But no one was wounded. An Israeli settler was briefly detained. The family sees no point in filing a complaint with the Israeli police. The only one they feel they can turn to is their neighbor, the field researcher, Kadus. And all he can do is document.

KADUS: (Through interpreter) If the settlers are angry against the Israeli police after a young guy was killed in a car chase, then the settlers should not vent out their anger against the Israeli police onto us, onto the Palestinians.

ESTRIN: He can't say for sure if they attacked the house because they were angry over the police chase. It's just another incident in a place where confrontations happen all the time.

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, the West Bank. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.