Israeli Arab Who Wielded Knife in Hopes of Being Killed Sentenced to Six Months in Prison

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A screenshot from YouTube of a video depicting Asra’a Abed moments before she was shot at the Afula bus station, October 9, 2015.
A screenshot from YouTube of a video depicting Asra’a Abed moments before she was shot at the Afula bus station, October 9, 2015.Credit: Screenshot

An Israeli Arab woman who brandished a knife at border policemen in the hopes of provoking him to kill her was sentenced Monday to six months in prison.

Asra’a Abed, 30, of Nazareth, is a divorcee with a 10-year-old daughter. On October 16, 2015, she came to the Central Bus Station in Afula and began waving a big knife. She also shouted at the border policemen in a threatening manner, screaming, “You’re terrorists!” The cops yelled at her to drop the knife, and when she didn’t, they opened fire, wounding her in the midsection.

She was arrested and charged with illegal possession of a knife and making threats.

The indictment acknowledged that Abed had psychological problems and had tried to commit suicide several times before. It said she wasn’t attempting to carry out a terror attack, but rather trying to commit suicide by provoking the police into shooting her.

A psychological evaluation commissioned by the Social Affairs Ministry found she had high cognitive capabilities, was an outstanding student in high school, had completed a bachelor’s degree at the Technion, and was planning to begin studying for a master’s degree. However, the evaluation also said her emotional state was “exceptionally fragile, and despite having grown up in a warm, supportive family,” crises in a romantic relationship had “led her to make several suicide attempts.”

The evaluation recommended that she be sentenced to community service, in view of her lack of a criminal record, her psychological problems and her child.

But Judge Dalit Sharon-Green of the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court disagreed. “A deterrent, boundary-setting punishment is essential to make her responsibility for her acts, and the need to refrain from repeating them, clear to Asra’a,” she wrote, adding that community service would not constitute a “deterrent, boundary-setting punishment.”

Moreover, the judge said, though Abed is not a “ticking bomb,” it’s impossible “to ignore the danger she poses, given that more than once, in her desire to realize her aspirations [to commit suicide], she caused real danger to the public, without hesitating before the act and without even recognizing this fact afterward.” For instance, in one previous suicide attempt, Abed rented a car and crashed it into a truck.

Sharon-Green also noted that Abed never expressed remorse for her actions in Afula and seemed to have no understanding of their gravity.

Abed will not start serving her jail sentence until September, to give her time to appeal if she chooses. The court also sentenced her to a fine of 1,500 shekels ($390).

Video footage of the incident in Afula shows that Abed was shot several times at close range while she was standing motionless. That caused some Knesset members and human rights organizations to claim that the border policemen had used excessive force.

Nazareth Mayor Ali Salem charged that Abed’s prison sentence was due to political pressure. He said the municipality and all Nazareth residents support Abed and would try to ensure that she doesn’t go to jail.

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