JERUSALEM — Seven Israelis were injured Friday when a Palestinian man threw an acid-like substance at a family that had stopped to pick up a hitchhiker at a busy intersection in the West Bank, the Israeli military said.
Israeli military and police spokesmen later said the liquid was likely “concentrated vinegar,” which contains a higher percentage of acetic acid than table vinegar and can cause burns.
The assailant, who sprayed the liquid on the hitchhiker and the family inside the car, also tried to attack bystanders with a screwdriver, the army said. He was shot and severely wounded by a passerby.
Friday’s attack came amid heightened tensions in the area after a senior Palestinian politician died Wednesday following a confrontation with Israeli border police at a nonviolent protest, also in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The death of Ziad Abu Ein, a prominent member of the Palestinian cabinet, has further strained relations between Israelis and Palestinians, who disagree on whether he died of a blockage of the coronary artery, most likely brought on by the confrontation, or, as Palestinians believe, from being struck by one of the police officers and inhaling tear gas.
Either way, Palestinian officials threatened Thursday to curtail security coordination with the Israeli military in the West Bank, a move Israel fears could result in an explosion of violence. The Palestinian leadership is set to meet Sunday to discuss its options, including the possibility of joining the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Relations between Israelis and Palestinians are already at a low after months of Palestinian terrorist attacks and a 50-day war in the Gaza Strip this past summer, as well as recent clashes over a contested holy site in Jerusalem.
A preliminary investigation by the army into Friday’s attack found that a vehicle carrying a family with four daughters had stopped at the Al-Hader junction, not far from the entrance to Jerusalem, to pick up a passenger.
The attacker, identified by the Palestinian news agency Maan as Jamal Abd al-Majid Ghayatha, 45, from the nearby village of Nahalin, began spraying the hitchhiker and the car’s passengers with the liquid, causing light to moderate injuries, the military said. He also pulled out a screwdriver and tried to attack people standing nearby before being shot, the army said.
The army said Ghayatha “is known to have previously been involved in illegal and hostile riots and activities.”
A paramedic from the Israeli first-aid agency Magen David Adom said all of those injured, including the four daughters, ages 10 to 18, were conscious. They were taken to hospitals, and all but one was released by early evening.
Update: The article has been updated to include additional information about the substance used in the attack, which the Israeli military initially reported was acid. Authorities later said the substance used was “concentrated vinegar.”