A video which purportedly shows an Arab Israeli ramming a car into a group of police in Umm al-Hiran in th esouthern Negev is at the centre of renewed tensions between the Israeli authorities and the local Bedouin population.
In the video of the incident on Wednesday, shot from a police helicopter above the scene, a car can be seen being driven into a group of police officers.
The car is shot at by the police as it drives a slow pace, suddenly speeding up after several seconds, which is when it hits the group. One officer died in the incident.
The man behind the wheel of the car was identified as Jacob Musa Abu al-Kian, a local teacher.
On releasing the video, a police spokesperson said the driver had intentionally “surged towards the forces intending to kill.“
However, rights activist Michal Haramati disputed the account, telling Reuters, “Suddenly the car started to go down the hill, without control, absolutely. The driver was obviously dead by the time that he lost control this way. That's when he hit the cops.”
Several other local witnesses collaborated Ms Haramati’s account.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted that the gunfire at the beginning of the video are warning shots, which were not directed at the car’s driver.
The violence sparked riots in the Bedouin village, which is currently being demolished after a court ruling found the settlement was built illegally on state-owned land. A new Jewish village is scheduled to be constructed on the land instead.
Arab-Israeli Knesset member Ayman Odeh, the most prominent Palestinian politician in the country, was injured after being shot with a rubber bullet during the clashes.
It is widely feared the fate of Umm al-Hiran could be a flashpoint for further violence between Israel's Bedouin population and police.
Around 200,000 of Israel’s eight-million strong population is Bedouin, Arab nomadic tribes that mainly live in desert areas.
Community leaders in the Negev say that the state discriminates against them, denying funds and services.
Israel’s authorities are on high alert for car attacks after four Israeli soldiers were killed after a Palestinian rammed his truck into them in Jerusalem on January 8.
Reuters contributed to this report
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