She is the widow of a murderer who was killed when Israel Defense Forces troops demolished the house he was hiding in. She’s five months pregnant. We have to believe her when she says she had no knowledge of her husband’s intentions to attack Israelis – the Israel Defense Forces also apparently believes her, since she hasn’t been arrested. Still, the army has raided her parents’ house three times. The last raid, a week after her husband was killed, raises serious questions.
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Hadeel Odeh, 26, is a quiet, articulate woman with an undergraduate degree in physics from An-Najah University in Nablus. Her description of the soldiers’ behavior during the raids on her parents’ home, where she was living, is unsettling.
On July 1, her husband, Mohammed Fakieh, shot and killed Rabbi Michael Mark, from the settlement of Otniel, as he was driving through the West Bank with his family; his wife and two children were also injured. Fakieh was himself killed on the night of July 26 in the village of Surif, near Kfar Etzion, where he was hiding.
The couple was married exactly a year ago. She’s from Kafr Thulth, near Qalqilyah; he was from Hebron. Their parents were the matchmakers. Mohammed, who worked in a Ramallah-based media company, had served five years in an Israeli prison, though he wouldn’t tell his wife why. “It’s better if you just know my romantic side,” he told her. Not long after their marriage, Hadeel became pregnant, and the two were awaiting the birth of a son. They moved to Hebron and the future looked promising.
Nothing could prepare Hadeel for what happened, however. She has no explanation for what her husband did. “He had a steady job,” she said, when we met her in Kafr Thulth this week. “He had plans for the child. I don’t know what happened to him. It’s hard for me to believe what happened. I’m not angry at him – it was his choice and there is nothing I can do about it now. But I will not say that I am proud of him, or that I support what he did.”
On June 27, in the midst of Ramadan, Mohammed, 29, took his wife to her parents’ home, to spend a few days with them. She had no idea that she would never see him again. Mark’s murder occurred a few days later. Hadeel says she never imagined that her husband was involved.
Five days after the ambush of the Mark family’s car, south of Hebron, at 2 A.M. on July 6, a large Israeli security force swooped down on her parents’ home in Kafr Thluth, for the first time. By then Hadeel already knew that the house in which she and Mohammed lived in Hebron had also been raided, and thus understood that her husband had been implicated in the rabbi’s murder. The soldiers searched her parents’ house after evacuating the 11 occupants and then questioned her about her husband’s whereabouts. She told them she had no idea where he was hiding.
The interrogator identified himself as “Captain Sabri” and was in uniform, she recalls (the interrogators are usually from the Shin Bet security service): “He told me, ‘You are in your fourth month of pregnancy. I know you are pregnant and I know it’s a boy. You are liable to become a young widow. It would be better for us to catch Mohammed than for you to become a widow.’”
The troops left after about three hours. On July 10, a second raid was carried out, again at 2 A.M. This time the soldiers damaged windows and doors, and made a mess during their search. Questioned again – this time by “Captain Rafiq” – Hadeel gave them the same answer: She had no idea where her husband was hiding.
“I had the feeling that Rafiq was frustrated by my answers,” Hadeel says now. “He told me: ‘I promise you that we will kill Mohammed and then bring him to you. His face will look like it’s been mauled by a dog. You won’t recognize him. And after we kill him, we will come back here and arrest you and make you abort your baby.’ Before leaving, he said again: ‘Be prepared, because we will come to arrest you.’”
The army returned on August 3, again in large numbers, again with “Captain Sabri” and again in the dead of night. The pregnant woman was now a widow. Some of the family members in the house were asleep, others not. Hadeel’s father, A-Zuheir Odeh, 53, a former head of the village council, was at the neighbors’ house next door. The soldiers again forced their way in, shouting loudly.
Hadeel says they kicked the children to wake them up and again ordered everyone outside. She herself underwent a particularly violent body search: A female soldier groped her pregnant belly roughly, repeatedly. She tried to protect herself. “I was afraid she would harm my baby,” Hadeel relates. “She pushed down on my belly over and over.”
Hadeel was then taken out of the house, taking her jewelry with her, as on every such occasion, fearing it would be looted. A female soldier grabbed her by the neck “the way you grab a cat,” she recalls, whereupon she was summoned back into the house and questioned again. In the room was an officer along with about a dozen soldiers. They shut the door and the window. She was scared.
Hadeel: “The officer said to me with a smile: ‘I gave you a chance to tell us where Mohammed was. Now we have killed him.’ I told him: ‘Mohammed is dead, what more do you want from me?’ The officer said: ‘That’s right, it’s over, there is no more Hebron for you.’” From this she inferred that she had better keep her distance from that city. She told the officer that in any case, she would remain in her childhood home in Kafr Thluth. The officer ordered the soldiers to arrest her.
They walked her toward a jeep. In the darkness she suddenly noticed a man lying on the ground, with soldiers standing around him. When she got closer she saw that it was her father. Hadeel started to scream and says she passed out. Her mother was not allowed to approach her. Hadeel regained consciousness immediately. “At that moment I didn’t care about myself or about my baby,” she says. “I was only worried about my father. I wanted to know that he was alright.”
Her mother and brother also started to shout. A soldier cocked his rifle and kept everyone away from her father, on the ground. After half an hour, Hadeel explains, they were given her father’s cell phone and told to call a Palestinian ambulance.
Amid the brouhaha, the soldiers left without taking Hadeel into custody. Her father was taken to a clinic in Qalqilyah, to a hospital in Tul Karm and afterward to Ramallah, from where he was taken to Assouta Medical Center in Tel Aviv. He remains there, unconscious, with brain damage. The cause of his condition is still not clear; Hadeel’s brother is by his side. Their mother, torn between the need to protect Hadeel and the need to be with her husband, is at home with her daughter in the village for now.
Abd al-Karim Sa’adi, a field researcher for the B’Tselem human rights organization, who knows the family well, is certain that they had nothing to do with the murder.
Hadeel says she hasn’t been able to get to sleep before 3 A.M. since everything happened. She’s constantly afraid the soldiers will return to arrest her.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit stated this week, in response to a query from Haaretz: “Contrary to the correspondent’s allegation, the army forces did not use violence against any of the occupants of the house. The father of the family passed out when the forces entered the house and was administered first aid until he was taken to hospital by the Red Crescent.”
The Spokesperson’s Unit did not respond to our question regarding why the army has continued to raid the home of Hadeel’s parents, and harass the family, even after the death of Mohammed Fakieh.
Hadeel says Mohammed called her once after the murder, on the next day, July 2. He didn’t mention what happened, and nothing in his voice suggested that he was on the run and in hiding. He told his wife that a closure had been imposed on Hebron, so he could not get to her. He promised that when the closure was lifted – probably the next day – he would take her home. He asked how the baby was doing and hung up. They never spoke again.
Is she angry at him? This time she prefers not to reply.