‘I felt the hate’: German tourist mobbed by Palestinians says he feared for his life


One of two German tourists who were attacked by a Palestinian mob on Saturday while driving through Nablus told Hebrew media on Sunday that he truly feared for his life during the attack, saying the crowd was “full of hate.”

The two tourists drove on Saturday through the center of Nablus, a city in the northern West Bank, in a rental car with Israeli license plates when they came under attack.

Gerald Hetzel, one of the tourists, told Israeli TV stations Kan and Channel 12 that he had visited Ramallah and Hebron on previous trips to the region, and had come to Nablus on the recommendation of friends.

“I have never come across a situation like this. It was a very dangerous situation, and we thought they were trying to kill us,” he said.

“Young men from taxis came around us … and started banging on our windows, screaming at us in Arabic,” he said. “They were throwing stones and a traffic sign and throwing everything at the car. After a minute or two they pulled out a knife and stabbed the rider of the car, and also threatened my friend.

“I didn’t understand what they wanted. We tried to tell them in English that we are tourists, and not Jewish Israelis, that we are there to visit the town and see it, but they didn’t seem to understand,” Hetzel said.

Palestinian police stand near an Israeli ride-sharing car driven by German tourists that was attacked by Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus, March 18, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

“They kept coming after us and walking after our car. It felt like they were chasing the car,” he explained and said that a PA policeman took them over to the side.

The crowd became “very large” and “very angry,” Hetzel said, adding that police tried to tell the crowd in Arabic to leave.

“I could really feel the hatred from their eyes, and from the way they were acting. And they were throwing rocks, maybe twice the size of my head,” Hetzel recalled.

He said he did not understand the scale of the security sensitivities: “I thought they were only targeting religious Jews, not international tourists.”

PA security forces were powerless to stop the crowd and instructed the tourists to drive away as quickly as possible, Hetzel said.

Then an Israeli Arab told the two to follow him and led the way out of the city through smaller streets. After fleeing the city, the Arab Israelis gave the pair a ride, as their rental car had been so badly damaged.

“It doesn’t change my whole view of Israel. I think Israel is a very friendly country,” Hetzel said.

“It certainly changes my view of the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority areas in Judea and Samaria,” he said, using the biblical name for the West Bank, then recalled a previous trip to Bethlehem where where he met a group of three 16 year olds. old boys.

“They told me that if they meet a Jew on the street, they want to kill him, just like this. And I think it’s a big problem that they hate so much in their education,” Hetzel said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s security services claimed on Sunday that the attackers feared the tourists were Israeli forces, stressing that they had “zero hostility” towards Germany.

“A group of young men… threw stones at a civilian car with Israeli license plates,” a local Palestinian security official said on condition of anonymity.

The German ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, said on Twitter: “A mob that attacks tourists because they don’t like their license plate is shameful and cowardly.”

Talal Dweikat, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, told AFP that “it is clear that we have zero hostility towards a country whose citizens visit our cities.”

According to Dweikat, those involved were “wary” of a “foreign” car, fearing it was being used by undercover Israeli forces, who often operate in the West Bank.

The spokesman said the tourists were rescued by a Palestinian policeman who helped them leave the city center, and Seibert thanked “the Palestinian Israeli citizen who saved them.”

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting almost nightly raids on the West Bank amid a series of deadly terrorist attacks in Palestine. Those tensions have escalated in recent weeks, with a cycle of deadly Israeli raids and Palestinian attacks, as well as an uptick in settler violence.

The northern West Bank, and particularly the cities of Nablus and Jenin, have seen repeated deadly Israeli raids targeting Palestinian terrorists.

Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 14 Israelis dead and many others injured.

At least 85 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them in attacks or during clashes with security forces, although some were unrelated civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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