An Israeli police officer has been killed in an alleged car-ramming during protests over home demolitions in the Negev village of Umm al-Hiran on Wednesday (18 January 2017). The driver was shot dead at the scene.
Aerial footage appears to show a car accelerating towards a line of security personnel as they fire at it. The vehicle then careens towards an officer and runs him over before coming to a standstill as gunmen surround it.
It is unclear whether the gunshots precipitated the car's change of speed or vice-versa. Conflicting accounts of the deadly incident have since emerged.
The officer has been identified by The Times of Israel as 1st sergeant Erez Levi, 34, and the driver as Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia'an. Police claimed that shots were only fired after the car sped towards officers, while locals and activists said that Abu Al-Qia'an was driving away from the scene calmly before he was shot and lost control of the vehicle.
A police statement described Abu Al-Qia'an as an "Islamic movement activist" who "accelerated toward the officers with the intent of carrying out a ramming attack". Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel Radio: "It was a terror attack that murdered a policeman".
Uriel Eisner, 26, a member of the Center for Jewish Non-violence, told The Times of Israel that police had fired at the car before it accelerated towards them. Eisner hypothesised that the driver was attempting to leave the village in order to avoid any confrontation with police.
Police and and locals had been clashing over the demolition of Bedouin homes in Umm al-Hiran. The village has become a symbol of resistance for Arab-Israelis in the Negev who oppose an Israeli 2015 Supreme Court ruling that the land belongs to the Israeli state. Israel's government is planning to build a Jewish town on the site.
Police say that demolitions would continue and that they found jihadist literature in Abu Al-Qia'an's home. They are reported to have arrested his son. Violent clashes continued after the incident with several people reported wounded.