Police defend handling of dispatch call during mob attack of American students

Police said they have still not determined why the phone calls were cut off, but they have ruled that the operator did not hang up.

Vehicle of American tourists attacked in Hebron  (photo credit: TAZPIT)
Vehicle of American tourists attacked in Hebron
(photo credit: TAZPIT)
Police on Saturday defended emergency dispatch operators following reports they bungled distress calls from a Palestinian man who was protecting five lost American yeshiva students from being attacked by a Palestinian mob in Hebron on Thursday.
“An investigation of the incident has found that it was dealt with immediately and professionally with coordination between the police dispatch and the IDF,” the Judea and Samaria police said Saturday.
Police added that the incident was a difficult one, in that it took place inside Area A, which is under Palestinian control.
According to a report on Ch. 2 Friday night, the young men from Brooklyn who don’t speak Hebrew tried on a number of occasions to call for help but the calls cut off repeatedly.
In recordings aired on Ch. 2, Fayez Abu Hamdiyeh – the Palestinian local who rescued them from the attack – can be heard trying to explain to the operator what was taking place, but the call cut off.
In the recording, the operator can be heard asking him in Hebrew if he needs assistance, but before he can answer, he’s cut off. After he called a few times and the calls were disconnected, he was finally transferred to the Judea and Samaria police.
At the same time, the young men managed to call an acquaintance in Jerusalem who explained to the police what happened and that the five were being protected by a Palestinian man. Abu Hamdiyeh, again called and in Arabic tried to explain what was happening, but to no avail. The Ch. 2 report said the first people to arrive on the scene to give assistance were civilians from a private security group in the West Bank, after which security forces joined the effort.
Police said Saturday they have not yet determined why the phone calls were cut off, but that they have ruled that the operator did not hang up on Abu Hamdiyeh intentionally, and that by the time the calls went through to the operator, police were already aware of the incident and were responding.
On Friday, the Judea and Samaria police said “these sorts of reports require us to confirm them first before we send forces into Palestinian villages, which something takes time.”
In July of last year, the Israel Police was scandalized when a tape emerged of an emergency dispatch call placed by Gil-Ad Shaer on the night he and two other teens were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank. In the tape, Shaer can be heard whispering “they kidnapped me,” but it was hours before an official search was ordered.
After the scandal broke, police held an internal probe and removed four officers from their posts.
In Thursday’s incident, the students entered the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal Johar after they were misdirected there by the navigational system Waze, security sources said.
Palestinians who saw the car immediately threw stones and a firebomb at the vehicle, which soon caught fire.
The students were able to escape as the car went up in flames. Two of them were lightly wounded in the face from broken glass.
The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria said it coordinated the rescue with the Palestinian Authority security forces, the IDF and a police reconnaissance unit.