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Car-ramming Palestinian confesses nationalistic motives

Israeli security forces and forensics experts inspect the destroyed vehicle that was used the army said a Palestinian assailant rammed into a group of Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank on March 16, 2018
Jack GUEZ (AFP)
Tensions were high after Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas called for a day of rage on Friday

The Palestinian who killed two Israeli soldiers in a car ramming attack confessed that it was no accident and in fact was nationalistically motivated, a Shin Bet statement said on Saturday.

Israeli forces arrested the perpetrator's brother and uncle late Friday night after inspecting his family home in readiness to demolish it.

The 26-year old Alaa Kabha was already in custody, as he was detained injured at the scene of the incident and taken to the hospital under guard.

During initial interrogation, Kabha reportedly claimed the incident was an accident before confessing, though he acted alone and it was not clear whether he had planned the attack ahead.

Kabha's family also denied that Alaa had any terrorist tendencies, his father ardently claiming “it will become clear that this was an accident and nothing more,” the Israeli news site Walla reported.

While other Kabha family members also defended Alaa's innocence, the unnamed representative said he had made a mistake in the past, referring to Alaa's prior arrest, but that it did not warrant branding him a terrorist.

Friday's car ramming, close to the Jewish settlement of Mevo Dotan near Jenin in the north of the West Bank, also wounded two soldiers, one of them seriously. The army is yet to release their names.

The two servicemen killed were identified by the IDF on Saturday as Cpt. Ziv Daos, from the central town of Azor, and Sgt. Netanel Kahalani, from the northern town of Elyakim.

According to Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency, Kabha had previously been interned for security reasons but was released in April last year.

Palestinian news outlets reported that he was in prison for 17 months after throwing stones at IDF soldiers and settlers.

Armée israélienne

In the wake of the ramming, authorities also rescinded the permits of 67 of members of his extended family to work in Israel and those of 26 to do business with it.

Human rights groups condemn such measures as collective punishment but the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they are a deterrent to attacks on Israelis.

"We will work to demolish the home of the terrorist and will deal with him to the fullest extent of the law," Netanyahu said in a statement Saturday.

Israel routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians who carry out attacks.

Tensions were high after Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas called for a day of rage on Friday to commemorate 100 days since US President Donald Trump's controversial recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Palestinians see the city as their capital and Trump's recognition broke with decades of US policy that the status of the city would be negotiated between the parties.

At least 31 Palestinians and four Israelis have been killed since Trump's announcement, which set off major protests.

Hamas praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.

Car rammings are a tactic that has been used repeatedly in a wave of lone wolf attacks that has hit Israel and the Palestinian territories since October 2015.

The frequency of such attacks had abated but has picked up again since Trump's Jerusalem announcement.

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