KFAR QASSEM, Israel (AP) — Israeli police on Friday shot dead an Arab assailant who they said lured officers into an ambush in which he rammed them with his car after trying to shoot them, an attack that left three policemen wounded in central Israel.
The incident took place in the Arab Israeli town of Kfar Qassem, an unusual site for what police suspected was a “nationalistic” militant attack. The Arab community in Israel is also struggling with surging violent crime that residents blame on decades of government neglect.
Israeli police identified the attacker as 22-year-old Naim Badir, a member of Israel’s Arab minority and a resident of Kfar Qassem.
Badir’s uncle, Sobhi Theeb Bedir, said he knew nothing about what police described as his nephew’s carefully planned ambush. He portrayed his nephew as a beloved and quiet boy who was, “far from the path of violence and terrorism,” and said he couldn’t comment on exactly what took place.
Police alleged that Badir called officers to his house over a supposed violent incident. When police arrived at the scene, they said they were greeted with a barrage of stones and alcohol bottles hurled from the house. Badir then rushed out of the apartment with a gun drawn, according to the police account and security footage from the scene. A police spokesman said Badir tried to shoot but the gun didn’t fire.
Moments later, security footage shows Badir speeding in reverse down the street toward where officers were stationed. His car crashed into another, lightly wounding three officers. Police opened fire, killing Badir, according to Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency service.
Soldiers and police said they searched the scene and found an automatic weapon, along with a knife and tear gas belonging to Badir. It remains unclear whether other suspects were involved in the attack.
Palestinians have been accused in dozens of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks targeting Israeli civilians and security personnel in recent years. It is rare for such attacks to be committed by Palestinian citizens of Israel, however.
The attack comes amid heightened violence in the occupied West Bank and days before Israel is set to swear in the most right-wing government in its history.
The incoming minister of national security who will oversee the police, Itamar Ben-Gvir, thanked police for their response to the attack and praised the force as heroic. The leader of an ultranationalist Jewish Power party who once was convicted of incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist organization, Ben-Gvir ran on the promise of fighting organized crime and increasing governance in areas populated by Israel’s Arab minority.
Associated Press reporter Isabel DeBre in Jerusalem contributed to this report.