Undercover police arrested six middle-school children on an Egged bus south of Beersheba Thursday afternoon after the youngsters threw objects, vandalized "everything in sight," pressed a knife against the driver's neck and tried to stab a plainclothes police officer.
In recent days, police have been investigating complaints of stones thrown at vehicles traveling south from Beersheba on Route 40. The culprits were 12 and 13-year-olds who attend school at Segev Shalom and live in the Beduin communities on the outskirts of Beersheba, police said.
On Thursday, a youth crimes officer boarded the bus, pretending to be an apprentice driver. The bus was followed by teams from the Border Police's Rotem unit and the Beersheba police's youth crimes squad.
As the bus began its route, the students allegedly began to throw objects at the bus driver and "to destroy everything within sight," a senior police official said.
According to police, when the bus driver turned his head to face his young assailants, he found two students yelling at him "turn your head back around... Look forward at the road." The two then approached the driver, pressed a blade against his neck, and reminded him to "look straight ahead."
At that point, the undercover policeman grabbed the hand of the blade-wielding child and ordered him to stand down.
Instead, the two ringleaders allegedly turned on the police officer, unsuccessfully trying to stab him with a knife. Finally, the officer asked the driver to stop the bus in order to receive backup.
In addition to the two ringleaders, police arrested another four juveniles. In speaking to the driver, police officers were shocked to hear that Thursday's events were commonplace. The driver added that many Egged drivers were scared of working on the bus route.
Supt. Liat Nidam, spokeswoman for the Negev Subdistrict, said police "see the incident as very serious. Rock-throwing is a dangerous phenomenon that endangers all of the people who drive on the road, and can come at the expense of human lives. Only by a miracle did the violence toward the bus driver not end in a serious collision."
Police promised that the adolescents would be indicted, but that due to their age, they would be released to house arrest under child welfare services' supervision. Meanwhile, Beduin tribal elders contacted police Thursday evening with a request to work together with police in confronting the children's behavior.
Negev police said they invest long hours in trying to reduce violence in Beduin communities through lectures, activities and workshops in the schools.
"These children are having a crisis of identity. Western influence has undermined the traditional authority of the tribal elders, which leads to a crisis in the family unit."
Only one day earlier, eight students were wounded and 13 people were detained following a massive brawl in a school in the nearby Negev city of Rahat. The fight broke out in the El-Nur School, and police suspect that approximately 100 students from two tribal factions took part.
Four of the students involved in the fight suffered stab wounds and were hospitalized in fair-to-moderate condition at Beersheba's Soroka Medical Center.
Police forces under the command of Rahat Station Chief Ch.-Supt. Yoni Zeitek, arrested 13 students suspected of participating in the brawl. Police said they were still uncertain as to the cause of the brawl, but were continuing to investigate the incident.