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Israelis protesting settler's death in police chase arrested in West Bank

Tensions between extremist settlers and the police have risen sharply following the death of 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak
Israeli protesters stand next to an image of Ahuvia Sandak, who died during a police chase when his car rolled over and crashed near a junction in the West Bank (Screengrab)

Hundreds of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem protested on Wednesday night over the death of a settler in a car crash fleeing Israeli police, according to local media.

Sixteen-year-old Ahuvia Sandak died on 21 December after his car rolled over and crashed near a junction in the West Bank following a police chase. Four other settlers were injured in the crash. Sandak's death has prompted anger and calls for vengeance.   

Israeli police chased Sandak's car after he was alleged to have thrown stones at Palestinians in the West Bank. Some Israeli legal aid groups who represent settlers claimed the police had bumped Sandak's car from behind, which led to the fatal crash. Sandak has become an icon in some quarters, depicted in a cartoon as the George Floyd of Israel, with a policeman kneeling on his neck. 

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Israeli settlers have been protesting almost every evening since 21 December near various illegal settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem, including Bat Ayin settlement, where Sandak lived. 

The tension had escalated after another Israeli woman was found dead early on the same day in a forest near Tal Menashe settlement. A Palestinian from Jenin town was arrested on suspicion of murder this week. 

Aviv Kochavi, the Israeli army chief of staff, has called for more security enforcement to control the escalating situation, in which the Hilltop Youth, an extremist group whom Sandak belonged to, have been active in blocking roads, vandalising Israeli police vehicles, throwing stones at Palestinian cars, and disrupting the service of the light railway in Jerusalem. 

Israeli police have also warned they are "losing control" of the situation surrounding Hilltop Youth.

On Wednesday, 36 settlers were arrested by Israeli forces in various areas of the West Bank. A Palestinian from the village of Ras Karkar was reportedly injured after stones were thrown at his car near Beit El settlement, close to the city of Ramallah.

Hilltop Youth has launched several attacks on Palestinian properties and villages in recent years, setting fire to crops and homes, slashing car tyres and spraying racist graffiti. The group sees the West Bank as the biblical kingdoms of Judea and Samaria, which belong to them and must be purged of Palestinians. 

In September, an Israeli court issued a triple life sentence against an extremist settler, Amiram Ben-Uliel, convicted of killing three members of the Palestinian family Dawabsheh in a West Bank arson attack in 2015.

Ben-Uliel also belongs to Hilltop Youth.