Israeli Charged With Murder of His Wife in Front of 5-year-old Daughter

Indictment recounts how Ayman Masarwa brutally beat his wife Wafa, stabbed her and left her to die as he fled the scene

Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg
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The scene of the murder, Taibeh, July 2, 2020
The scene of the murder, Taibeh, July 2, 2020Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

An man from the Israeli Arab town of Taibeh was indicted on Friday in the murder of his wife in front of his young daughter earlier this month. The prosecution charged Ayman Masarwa with aggravated murder and disrupting legal proceedings

The prosecution had ample evidence against Masarwa: In all of his testimony to police, he confirmed that he was at the scene of the murder, as well as the attack on his wife, Wafa Johar, and her stabbing. The prosecution even relied on the testimony of Masarwa’s 5-year-old daughter, who witnessed the attack.

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According to Haaretz's tally, 12 women were murdered this year by their partners or close family. Since the start of the year, eight Israeli Arab women have been murdered, according to community organization Abraham Initiatives.

Wafa Johar Masarwa, who was murdered on July 2, 2020
Wafa Johar Masarwa, who was murdered on July 2, 2020

Last month, thousands of people protested in Tel Aviv, demanding that the government transfer funds for a program to fight domestic violence that was approved back in 2017, as hotlines and women's shelters throughout Israel are reporting an uptick in reports of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

The indictment says that a short time after the Masarwa couple and their daughter arrived at their Taibeh home on July 2, Ayman started vigorously beating his wife in the head. He broke two of her teeth, tore out her earring, ripped off her necklace and broke a glass bottle and cup on her body. After that, he stabbed her in the upper body with a sharpened knife.

Wafa tried to flee during the assault, and when she got out to the building’s stairwell, still bleeding, Ayman stabbed her again. Wafa collapsed onto the stairs. Their 5-year-old daughter was present for the entire attack, and the indictment says that she cursed at her father as he abused her mother.

After the assault, Ayman Masarwa fled the house, clad only in his underwear and still clutching the knife. When he arrived at his mother’s home, he took out clothes from the trunk of his car, got dressed and threw the knife he used to stab his wife in an area far from the crime scene. At this point, the daughter ran to a neighbor and told her, in tears, that her father attacked her mother with a knife.

Masarwa himself was able to reenact the murder. During the reenactment, he claimed he was angry at his wife for cursing at him, and he responded by throwing a glass bottle at her. After that, he said, Wafa herself took a knife from the drawer, and he approached her, took the knife from her hand, and stabbed her twice in the upper body. He claimed that when he went out to the stairwell, Wafa followed him out and stabbed herself.  

There was a large amount of evidence against Ayman Masarwa, including accounts from family members and acquaintances who said that he admitted to murdering Wafa in front of them. But the most significant piece of evidence was the daughter’s testimony. While being questioned, she told investigators that she sat on the couch at home, and saw her father take out a knife from the drawer and “butcher” her mother.

She added that there was no one else in the house at the time of the murder, and described how her mother bled on the staircase, “asleep, dead.” The indictment says that the child investigator was impressed at how the girl managed to recount the progression of events as a witness to them, but did not allow her to testify in court.