Driver in his 60s killed after hitting camel in southern Israel

A man was killed early Monday after colliding with a camel on Road 358 between the town of Lakia and Kibbutz Lahav in southern Israel.

First responders said the vehicle strayed about 40 meters from the road before flipping over with the driver inside. The driver was unconscious upon their arrival and sustained a multi-system injury, Magen David Adom said.

The man, 65, was pronounced dead by paramedics on the scene.

Police said they were investigating the circumstances that led to the accident and would take action to locate the owner of the camel, who may face criminal charges if located.

In 2018, the State of Israel passed a law that stipulates that camels are to be tagged with an under-the-skin digital ID chip, similar to dogs, and their owners held criminally responsible if their animals are involved in road accidents.

The Law for the Marking and Supervision of Animals obliges owners to list their camels on a registry, and to fulfill a number of criteria in keeping the desert livestock, in an attempt to cut traffic deaths and injuries caused by camels walking on roads in Israel’s south.

Sign warning drivers of camels on a Negev highway seen on August 26, 2007. (Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90)

But data released by the Agriculture Ministry a year later showed that Bedouin towns in the Negev in southern Israel, where stray camels are rampant, were not fully cooperating with the law, as camels continued to be involved in fatal car accidents in the area.

Former Arab Israeli lawmaker Abd al-Hakim Hajj Yahya said in 2019 that the law was “part of the war on Bedouin Arabs in the Negev.”

Other lawmakers have since noted that the problem could have been solved if the government had recognized the Negev’s 4,000 camels as grazing animals and allocated them grazing land.

Over the past decade, nearly 400 people have been injured in car accidents involving stray camels. Some 17 people have died and 60 have been seriously injured, according to data published by the Or Yarok Association for Safer Driving in Israel.

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