A Palestinian bus driver has been found hanged inside his vehicle at a depot in Jerusalem, with the Israeli police saying the man committed suicide, while the driver’s family claim he was lynched by Israelis.
The bus driver, who has been identified as Youssef al-Ramouni from al-Tur in East Jerusalem, worked for Egged, an Israeli company.
Other drivers were, according to the Ma’an news agency, alarmed to see al-Ramouni’s bus parked in the terminal late on Sunday evening, when it was supposed to be out on its route. They entered the vehicle and discovered al-Ramouni’s body hanging from a steel bar.
Israeli police say a preliminary investigation showed no sign of an assault.
“The bus driver committed suicide, there is no other indication other than it was a suicide case,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, according to Reuters.
Al-Ramouni’s relatives are not convinced, arguing that Youssef, the father of two young children, could not possibly have killed himself.
“I saw the body last night and I saw bruises and marks that he was beaten up,” al-Ramouni’s brother Louy told Reuters. “There were marks of fingers on the body and also on his back there was a bruise, as if he was hit by a hard object.”
The family supports their allegations with pictures of the dead body, which are currently circulating online.
The body is now in Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, where it was transferred for an autopsy. Al-Ramouni’s family wants a Palestinian pathologist to be present, but it’s not yet clear if this will be allowed.
Al-Ramouni’s colleagues have, according to the Haaretz, said that Palestinian bus drivers have long been targets of attacks by Israelis.
Rumors of the driver’s death in a possible assault spread across the Palestinian media, sparking riots in several neighborhoods of Jerusalem – At-tur, Ras al-Amud and Abu Dis, the Times of Israel reported. Palestinian youths hurled stones and firebombs at police, who responded with stun grenades and tear gas.
The Israeli media have meanwhile reported that a Jewish man, aged 32, was stabbed with a screwdriver also on Sunday evening. The man managed to make it to a police station and was eventually taken to hospital.
Tensions have lately been high between Israelis and Palestinians, primarily over disrupted access to a landmark place of worship, the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
Over the past month, multiple attacks launched by both sides have seen five Israelis and a dozen Palestinians killed.
Among the latest victims is a Palestinian man, who was shot dead last Tuesday by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank. The day before, an Israeli woman and an IDF soldier were stabbed, allegedly by Palestinians, in two separate attacks.