Three residents of the central Israeli town of Lod were indicted on Sunday in the drive-by shooting death of Jaffa resident Samar Khatib, 33, last May, near the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion. According to the indictment, the three planted a bomb under Khatib's car, but after police defused the device, the defendants pursued her and a female friend and fired dozens of shots at the two, killing Khatib and leaving the friend paralyzed.
Mohammed Hajaj, Yusef Dasouki and a third defendant whose name remains under a gag order because he was a minor at the time of the crime are all related to a man named Issam Hajaj. The prosecution alleged that Khatib's murder followed her breakup from Issam Hajaj, with whom Khatib had a romantic relationship.
Three other members of the defendants' family from Lod and the southern Bedouin town of Rahat were also indicted for possession and use of weapons and for obstruction of justice for allegedly helping the primary defendants conceal evidence. One of the three, Ali Hajaj, is also accused of attempted murder.
At Sunday's arraignment hearing, one of the defendants was removed from the courtroom after he attempted to attack members of the press.
According to the indictment, Khatib and Issam Hajaj were romantically linked from 2012 to 2017, at which time their relationship ended. Police claim that the boyfriend was unable to bear the breakup and had viewed Samar Khatib "as his own." Police assume that prior to Khatib's killing, Issam Hajaj fled to a country with which Israel has no extradition agreement.
Following the breakup, the three primary defendants allegedly decided to kill Khatib and on May 27 of last year. They, along with Ali Hajaj, are accused of planting an 800 gram (two pound) explosive device under Khatib's car, which was parked near her home. The police defused the bomb.
The following day, the three allegedly followed a car in which Khatib and a female friend of hers were riding at the time. At the Ein Hakoreh junction near Rishon Letzion, south of Tel Aviv, "they shot at [the two women] with the intention of causing their deaths, in cold blood and without provocation" and then fled the scene, the indictment states.
Mohammed Hajaj and Yusef Dasouki, two of the primary defendants, then went to the home of another defendant, Hasib Hajaj, where they were joined by the juvenile defendant, and the four attempted to alter the appearance of the car they had been driving, according to the indictment.
The prosecution alleges that the four acted as what was described as "a fearless, organized professional hit team," first using an explosive device and then two guns. The three main defendants "also didn't hesitate" to shoot at her friend, who was in the car with Khatib, and to try to kill the friend, who was critically injured and left disabled by the shooting.
Through the use of the explosive device and in shooting at Khatib's car on a major thoroughfare, the defendants also demonstrated a willingness to endanger innocent bystanders, the prosecution claims.
The Hajaj family is well-known to police due to the family's involvement in crime linked to drugs, violence and property offenses. Police sources said surveillance of the suspects began immediately after Khatib's killing, even though Issam Hajaj was abroad. After months of undercover operations, last month police raided the complex where the suspects were living in Lod and arrested them.
Khatib, a divorced mother of three, had worked as a sign-language interpreter.
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