West Bank road tragedy mars young Israeli, Palestinian lives

Sun May 25, 2014 8:41am EDT
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By Noah Browning

HARES West Bank (Reuters) - On March 14 last year, an Israeli woman and her three daughters were hurt in a car wreck on the road between the Jewish settlement of Ariel and the Palestinian village of Hares in the occupied West Bank.

Five village boys were arrested and accused of throwing stones at cars and causing the crash.

The incident has become emblematic for both sides of the decades-old conflict between neighbors who despise each other - and shows how young lives on both those sides can be reduced to ruins.

A three-year old Israeli girl in the car was paralyzed and suffered brain damage. The jailed teens, all aged 16 at the time of the incident, face possible life sentences for attempted murder.

Israelis fed up with frequent such attacks have rallied around the case. The boys' families say they threw no stones and that the settlers convinced the mother to blame the crash on them out of spite.

"Shame on you! You have your children, now give me back mine," said 17-year-old suspect Tamer Souf's mother Watfa, speaking at the family home.

"She changed her story under pressure from the settlers," added his father Ayyad, who works in a plastic factory in the settlement next door. "It was just a normal accident, but they thought they could use it to incite against us."

The extreme length of the boys' trial process and severity of the charges has led Palestinians to accuse Israel of making an example of them and highlight for them the unfairness of detaining hundreds of minors a year to ensure settlers' safety.   Continued...

Feryal, the mother of 16-year-old Mohammed Suleiman, holds his picture at her house in the West Bank village of Hares near Salfit  May 12, 2014.   REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman