Five Arab teenagers from the village of Sur Baher, on the southeastern outskirts of Jerusalem, have been arrested over the stone-throwing attack on a car last Thursday in which an 11-month-old girl, Avigail Ben-Zion, was seriously injured, Jerusalem police say. The suspects, aged 14 to 17, were motivated by hatred of Jews, police said, lifting a gag order on the case.
Immediately after the incident last Thursday, Jerusalem District police chief Maj. Gen. Yossi Pariente ordered the formation of a special investigative task force in the district's Central Unit. The team, in conjunction with police from the Moriah subdistrict and officers in the Israel Police Special Patrol Unit, quickly detained four minors fAfter intense interrogations, police were able to get the four detained teenagers to give a list of five suspects, whom they then arrested. Police said the five had confessed to the crime and had reconstructed it for investigators.
"The incident was premeditated and timed. They met beforehand and planned to arrive at dusk along that highway to throw rocks," Superintendent Yigal Almaliach of the Central Unit said. "The motive was hatred of Jews."
The suspects told police that two of their friends had planned to meet at 4 p.m. to throw stones at passing vehicles. The seven teenagers met and split up between two locations behind the fence lining the road between the Jerusalem neighborhoods of Ramat Rahel and Talpiyot. One of the teenagers was tasked with scouting for cars carrying Jewish passengers.
As Shirin Ben-Zion drove around a curve in the road, the teenagers in the first group began throwing stones. Shirin's three children were in the back of the car. A stone smashed the window next to baby Avigail, hitting her in the head. When suspects in the first group saw the damage they had inflicted on the vehicle, they fled the scene.
The suspects also told interrogators that the second group of teenagers stayed behind, continuing to throw rocks. They hit a taxi carrying four Arab passengers. The taxi driver pulled the vehicle over and the passengers got out and began chasing after the teenagers, who fled toward their homes.
Later, as the media began reporting the incident, the seven huddled to devise an alibi. They decided to tell anyone who asked that they had been at the dentist at the time of the incident.
The Jerusalem Magistrates' Court decided to extend the remand of the five suspects. Police said the investigation was ongoing, adding that more arrests could be expected in the coming days.
Despite the arrests, several residents in Jerusalem neighborhoods Armon Hanatziv, Arnona and French Hill have complained recently about an increase in stone-throwing incidents. The Jerusalem municipality and police agreed to launch a neighborhood patrol, which has started operating in French Hill.