Two children, aged five and seven years old, were found stabbed to death in a Jerusalem apartment yesterday morning. Police suspect their mother of murdering them and then trying to commit suicide. The mother was transferred to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, in serious condition.

Magen David Adom rescue services were called to the apartment on Ein Gedi Street just after 7 A.M. The children's mother, 36, was found inside with the brother and sister, who had stab marks all over their bodies. Paramedics declared the children dead on the scene.

Preliminary investigations indicate that the mother, who immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine with her children last April, stabbed her children to death and then tried to kill herself. The children's father is currently abroad.

The mother was known to the welfare authorities, who were aware that she was having difficulties raising her children. A social worker from the municipality had been scheduled to visit the home at 9 A.M. yesterday, two hours after the killings occurred. The visit had been coordinated with the mother after the authorities had received reports that her situation was deteriorating. Bonnie Goldberg, the director of the Jerusalem Municipality’s Welfare and Community Services Administration, told Haaretz that the authorities were alerted to the mother’s difficulties in August.

“She was cooperating and said she wanted to understand how things worked here in Israel,” said Goldberg. “We assigned her a psychologist and she accepted the help.”

The mother’s sister, who had spent the night in the apartment, witnessed the murders, according to Moriah District Police Commander Haim Blumenfeld. “We had a witness at the scene - her sister who slept with her through the night. According to the sister, she heard the screams of the children and tried to fight the mother. When she saw that she wasn't able to, she ran to the neighbor and called him to the place."  

A spokeswoman for Hadassah University Hospital said that the mother had arrived at Ein Karem with severe upper body injuries. The head of the department of general surgery and the trauma unit at Hadassah University Hospital, Professor Avraham Rivkind, said that the woman “arrived at the trauma unit, was quickly treated and immediately transferred to the operating room for surgery to treat her injuries, including a wound to the neck.”

A woman named Shoshana, who lives next to the apartment, said that "at seven in the morning, I heard screams from the window. I also heard crying and the screams were really terrible, for around two minutes. Afterward there was quiet and then I heard ambulances and police. The whole area filled up and the street was blocked. After half-an-hour they took an injured woman out of there." Shoshana added that "the children were very nice, they used to play on the balcony, to laugh."  

The mother met with municipal employees a number of times since the first contacts in August, according to Bonnie Goldberg of the municipality’s Welfare and Community Services Administration, and an assistance plan had been drawn up for her. The welfare workers got the impression that the mother’s distress stemmed from absorption difficulties, as well as from the trouble she was having with her children. “We definitely didn’t see this as an extreme case and the psychologist didn’t anticipate this,” she said. “Based on the data we had, no one could have known this would happen.”

On Sunday, the welfare authorities got an anonymous call from a woman who identified herself as a friend and neighbor of the mother, Goldberg said. The caller said that she had been hosting the family since Yom Kippur and noticed that the mother seemed increasingly distressed.

“At a certain point the caller cut off contact,” said Goldberg. “But we made an intense effort and succeeded in reaching the mother and spoke to her. After much persuading, we set up the meeting [with the social worker], but unfortunately this happened. Would it have been possible to prevent this? I can’t say. I wish we had prevented it, but we’ll never know the answer to that question.”

About a year ago, a mother of three children in Rahat stabbed her three children. Rescue crews who arrived at her home found two of the children, a boy of four and a girl of eight, dead. Their two-month-old sister was rushed to the local clinic, where she was pronounced dead.

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