Family Denies 73-year-old Palestinian Woman Tried to Kill Soldiers

The IDF are trying to depict Sarwat a-Sharawa, who was killed after allegedly swerving into a group of soldiers, as a 'terrorist' or perhaps as suicidal — something her family finds outrageous.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Sarwat a-Sharawi on background of scene of alleged attack she conducted near Hebron. Credit: AP / Courtesy
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Shin Bet security service investigators Gabi and Amir were very interested in whether Sarwat a-Sharawi, 73, had been suffering from depression or any other illnesses, her son Ayman said Sunday. They and the soldiers who burst into the house at 3 o’clock on Saturday morning also insisted on calling her a terrorist. Three days ago Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot her to death when she swerved toward them in her car, which the army called an attempted vehicular attack.

“They were digging for reasons to claim that she planned a terror attack,” said Ayman, who owns a drug-importing company, as those paying condolence calls crowd into the diwan, the gathering hall of the extended family. He is angry and offended by the broad hint that his mother had reasons to commit suicide.

Ayman a-Sharawi says Israel's claims that his mother, Sarwat a-Sharawi, tried to kill soldiers are outrages.Credit: Courtesy

“On the contrary,” he said. “We’re a successful family. We don’t have material problems, praise the Lord. My mother was social, well liked, and accepted. She was healthy, her eyesight was excellent, she was clear-headed. She raised us, four brothers and three sisters, after our father died 27 years ago. She learned to drive and got her license at age 62 so she could get around on her own. It was her car. She lived with one of the brothers in the siblings’ apartment house.”

The soldiers went through her things, he said. They took photos and a green scarf she’d gotten as a present, apparently from one of the mourners’ homes she had visited. They didn’t take a white kerchief or a scarf of another color, just the green shawl, the color of Hamas, that would suit the profile of a “terrorist.” Ayman also said the soldiers had said they’d be blowing up the house.

Israeli police check the damaged car of a Palestinian woman after she was shot dead by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron November 6, 2015. Credit: Reuters

On Friday the A-Sharawi family joined the other families in Hebron who refuse to believe that one of their own intended to harm soldiers at the checkpoints, which is why they were shot to death. And like the families of the other Palestinian dead, they are convinced the soldiers didn’t have to kill her to foil her intentions to harm them, if that had indeed been her intention. If she had remained alive, they wouldn’t have to agonize over what had caused her car to swerve toward the soldiers standing near the Zaid gas station in northern Hebron.

Ayman imagines that despite her courage and experience, the site of a group of Israeli soldiers standing near the gas station spooked her, which is why she swerved. She did not speed up, however, as seemed clear to him from a video documenting the incident, and that proved to him that she had no plans to ram anyone. He has a hard time believing that the army found a commando knife in her car, as the IDF claimed.

Ihab Badawi, an employee at the gas station, saw that further up the street youths had started to burn tires and garbage receptacles, and he closed the gate of the station, anticipating they would clash with the soldiers. Soldiers then opened the gate and ask for water to put out the fires.

Badawi, who reported his experiences to B’tselem field investigator Mussa Abu Hashhash, went into the office but continued to look outside. He saw the silver car coming down and swerving close to the soldiers standing near the gas station entrance. Other soldiers stood on the traffic island in the middle of the road. Suddenly he heard shots and bent down to protect himself, but soon realized he’d been wounded in his upper right arm. Other bullets hit installations at the station, and a coworker was hit by shrapnel. The video indicates that the gunfire came from the soldiers on the traffic island.

Though bleeding, Badawi went up to the upper floor of the office and watched as a Palestinian medical team took the woman out of the car and put her on a stretcher, but then an Israeli ambulance came, moved the woman to a different stretcher, and evacuated her. The soldiers made the gas station workers come out of the office and strip off their clothes.

Fifteen minutes after A-Sharawi was killed, pictures of the car started appearing on Facebook. “Everyone knew it was her car,” said Ayman.

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