A woman and her three young daughters were wounded on Thursday when Palestinians hurled rocks onto their vehicle, causing their car to swerve off the road and collide with an oncoming truck. By Friday morning, 10 Palestinians from a nearby village had been arrested and taken into custody for questioning.
Samaria police commander Kobi Shabtai told Army Radio on Friday, "In coming hours we will move forward with the investigation and find out whether these suspects are the ones who did this yesterday."
The incident occurred on Route 5 in Samaria.
One of the daughters, 2-year-old Adele, was in critical condition while the mother, Adva Biton, in her 40s, and two other daughters — Avigail, 4, and Naama, 6 — were moderately injured in the crash. Another daughter, 8, was not in the car. Adva Biton is a doctor of chemistry and works as a lecturer at several academic institutions.
Around 6 p.m. on Thursday, police in the area began fielding reports of rocks being thrown at passing vehicles on Route 5 between Ariel and the Barkan interchange in Samaria. Just as in other areas prone to such attacks, this area has seen a marked increase in stone-throwing incidents recently, and residents have repeatedly warned that it was only a matter of time before tragedy would strike.
Two crowded buses were also targeted by the Palestinian rock throwers on Thursday, causing several injuries. A police patrol unit was summoned to the scene, but while en route to the bus, it received the call to rush to the scene of the crash in which Adva Biton and her girls were injured.
Firefighters and emergency health services were summoned to the scene to provide first aid and rescue services. They found the girls trapped inside the vehicle, with varying degrees of injuries.
"Two firefighting teams arrived at the scene and began rescue efforts, which turned out to be complex," a firefighter at the scene said. "There were two girls in the back seat, aged 4 and 6, and we were able to extricate them quickly. The driver was trapped, as was the toddler strapped into a car seat in the front seat. The teams had to perform intricate extrication maneuvers, under difficult conditions and while making every effort not to further harm the driver or the toddler."
Adele Biton was hospitalized in critical condition at Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tikvah, but was later transferred to the adjacent Schneider Children's hospital. The two older girls were hospitalized at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan and at Rabin Medical Center.
Upon receiving news of the incident, the girls' father rushed between hospitals to be with his wife and daughters.
"The 2-year-old baby is in critical condition. We are not giving up. We are doing everything in our power to save her. We are optimistic," Dr. Oleg Kaminsky, a senior doctor at Rabin Medical Center, said Thursday.
The girls' grandmother said, "They come over twice a week, every week. We ate and laughed, we had a good time together. I asked them to stay a little longer. After they left, my oldest son told me that he heard on the news that there had been a terror attack. I tried to call the house and their cell phone but there was no answer. I had a bad feeling. We then drove toward Yakir [near Ariel, where the Biton family lives] on the road, and I saw the accident. I was blown over. I said, 'Adele is gone,' because I knew she was in the front seat. I'm glad that at least the eldest daughter wasn't with them."
Police officers and IDF troops combed the area in search of the perpetrators, focusing mainly on the nearby Palestinian village of Kif al-Hares. The police have yet to question the driver, and they have been careful not to rule the accident as directly caused by rock throwing. But judging from the sequence of events and the evidence on the road, it seems likely that the driver was hit by a rock, or lost control over the vehicle because of the barrage of rocks.
Several minutes before the crash, rocks were also hurled at another Israeli vehicle, shattering the windshield. The driver, a resident of Eli, and his 1-year-old son were lightly wounded.
Gershon Mesika, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said in response on Thursday that government policy was "backward."
"The insistence on classifying rock throwing not as terrorism but as a mere disturbance is complete recklessness," Mesika said.
"Over the last two months, the rock-throwing incidents have become more frequent, but there has been no response due to the limitations imposed on the IDF by our politicians. It is time that we fully understand: A rock can kill. Rock throwing should be viewed only as terrorism."