Five Jewish-American seminary students were attacked in their car by Palestinians who had mistaken them for Israelis encroaching on their Palestinian-dominated neighborhood.
The attack occurred in a Palestinian section of the West Bank city Hebron, known as the Jabel Johar neighborhood. The yeshiva students were Orthodox tourists from Brooklyn who had gotten lost trying to find their way to a sacred site. Their destination was the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, who know it as the Ibrahimi Mosque. A checkpoint that had been removed a week earlier would normally have stopped them from entering the neighborhood unknowingly.
The Palestinians used rocks and a firebomb to demolish the car and set it aflame, according to the Associated Press.
The students escaped serious injury and were rescued by a Palestinian man who invited them into his home so they could call the Israeli police, writes Isabel Kershner of the New York Times. The man, 51 year old Fayez Abu Hamdiyeh, believed them to be Israelis. He spent 40 minutes sheltering them and trying to calm them down.
The Times of Israel quoted Hamdiyeh's account of the incident:
I heard shots outside, I left my house and saw the five Jews frantically leaving their car, which was attacked by stones. They were very anxious, one was injured and bleeding from his face. I reassured them. I told them in Hebrew that it will be okay, I gave them water, and I helped the injured man.
I told them that they were safe in my house. Immediately afterward they called the police, and I sent teenagers to call the army to take them to the checkpoint.
I did the right thing. The people that threw stones at them and torched their car did a bad thing. We need to live here together.
The students, two of whom had minor facial injuries from broken glass, were escorted from the area by a SWAT team and soldiers, according to Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff of the Jerusalem Post. Their identities have not been released.
Violence between the Israelis and Palestinians continued after the Americans left the scene.
Hebron is a mostly Palestinian town, with an Israeli core, seated in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Its parts are controlled respectively by either the Israeli military or the Palestinian Authority. The market area around the Tomb of the Patriarchs was the site of a 1994 massacre during which American-Israeli Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Muslims.