Negev residents suffer car attacks

Decry polic inaction against stone-throwers

Fearing for their lives, Negev residents blasted the police over the weekend, accusing senior officers in the south of leaving them unprotected from growing numbers of youths who pelt cars and buses with stones in the South. Last week, police arrested four teenagers - two Beduin and two Jews - behind several attacks on vehicles in the Negev. While some stone-throwing cases were nationalistically motivated, police said that most of the attacks were carried out by kids involved in "after-school pranks." Two people were injured several weeks ago after rocks shattered their car windows as they drove outside Beersheba. "The teenagers are bored and after school stand on the side of the road and hurl rocks at passing cars," a senior office in the Negev District said. "The main roads targeted are the highways leading from Beersheba to Dimona and to Arad." But while police claimed they had the phenomenon under control, citing a similar uprising last year that was subdued by firm police action, head of the Upper Negev Regional Council Shmuel Rifman slammed the police force, claiming it was "leaving people to die." "It is just a matter of time before people get killed in one of the rock attacks," Rifman warned, wondering aloud if he would survive a stone shattering his windshield while driving. "The police are clearly not doing enough. They need to deal with the perpetrators with a firm hand and prevent these attacks from happening again." Rifman said he spoke recently with Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra about the stone-throwing attacks and was assured that the police would clamp down on the perpetrators. Police dismissed Rifman's criticism and claimed they were doing all they could, including stationing undercover cops on the sides of roads, to prevent the attacks. "We are speaking in schools and with Beduin communal leaders," one officer said. "Officers are stationed along the roads and we are also busy collecting intelligence. In the end we will make sure that the Negev roads remain safe."