Funeral procession for Palestinian bus driver Youssef al-Ramouni during his funeral in the West Bank town of Abu Dis near Jerusalem November 17, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Amid an onslaught of unfounded claims in the Palestinian media Monday that an Arab bus driver was murdered by Jewish settlers Sunday night in Jerusalem, an autopsy report concluded the driver’s death was self-inflicted, resulting from hanging himself inside the vehicle.
Yussuf al-Ramuni, 32, was found dead at the start of the route he was supposed to have driven late Sunday at an Egged bus depot in Har Hotzvim, an area of northwestern Jerusalem close to Jewish settlements and Arab neighborhoods.
The ensuing accusations resulted in a strike by Arab Egged workers, many of whom did not report for work Monday, and are expected not to show up on Tuesday. In response, the bus company issued a statement apologizing for the disruptions in service.
“Following the regrettable death of an Egged bus driver, who ended his life, there are disruptions in the public transportation in Jerusalem,” the statement read. “These disruptions are due to the absence of drivers from the Arab population, from east Jerusalem.”
The company went on to ask passengers to “exercise restraint and patience.”
Despite initial police assertions that evidence overwhelmingly suggested suicide, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, Wafa, said in several dispatches that “settlers” had “executed” Ramuni by hanging.
The agency referred to Ramuni as a “martyr” and pointed out that Palestinians were planning a series of protests against the “crime.”
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“Again, we can see the Palestinian media and extremists using this sad incident – of an Arab Egged bus driver who committed suicide – to try to incite and provoke disturbances among the Arab community,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
He added that an autopsy report, conducted by an Arab coroner, would be handed over to Ramuni’s family, along with his body, which is scheduled to be buried in a Tuesday funeral in Abu Dis, a town on the outskirts of Jerusalem, southeast of the Old City.
Still, the PA Foreign Ministry held Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “personally” responsible for the “assassination” of the bus driver, adding that the “growing anti-Palestinian culture of hate, violence and racism in Israel was the direct outcome of Netanyahu’s incitement.”
The ministry called on the United Nations to form an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the death of Ramuni. It also condemned the Jerusalem police for “attempting to conceal the crime by arguing that it was a suicide case.”
PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi also claimed that Ramuni was the victim of a hate crime perpetrated by settlers.
She claimed that Ramuni had been tortured before being hanged to death. However, she did not back up her charge with any evidence.
The Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency also claimed that Ramuni had been “executed” by settlers. The agency quoted unnamed witnesses who claimed that settlers had killed the driver.
Hamas joined the chorus of charges by also claiming that settlers had hanged Ramuni and called on Palestinians to “rise up against this ugly racist crime.”
After news of the alleged murder spread, Rosenfeld said, a small riot took place outside the Old City, resulting in the arrests of three minors for throwing rocks at police.
Ramuni’s death occurred the same night a Jewish man was stabbed in the back with a screwdriver by an Arab assailant near Damascus Gate.
Police are still searching for the suspect, Rosenfeld said.
Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.
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