Palestinian Charged With Murder of Pregnant Israeli Lover From West Bank Settlement

Both the defendant and the victim's husband claim the murder was politically motivated, but police reject that version

Mohammed Kharouf in court in Jerusalem, August 2, 2017.
Emil Salman

A Palestinian man, Mohammed Kharouf from the West Bank town of Nablus, was charged Sunday with murdering his pregnant Israeli girlfriend, Michal Halimi from the settlement of Adam. Kharouf was also charged with stealing her credit card and her car, which he sold in the Palestinian Authority-controlled area of the West Bank.

Although Kharouf claimed he had murdered Halimi in an effort to obtain the release of Palestinian prisoners, the indictment doesn’t ascribe a political motive to the killing, with police saying he changed his story for economic and social reasons. The family of the victim’s husband, Aharon Halimi, claims she was murdered because she was Israeli.

According to the charge sheet, Kharouf, 29, who was working in Israel without a permit, had a lengthy romantic relationship with Halimi, also 29. On May 11, she told Kharouf she was pregnant, police said, and apparently the child was her husband’s.

On May 28, Kharouf was working in gardening near a Holon water park, and arranged to meet Halimi at 2 P.M. in a nearby isolated area, where he allegedly strangled her and made sure she was dead by hitting her on the head with two cement blocks. Afterward, “Kharouf covered her body with earth and a tire with intent to conceal its location, stole her car and credit card and fled,” the indictment says. Her body was found only in July.

After the murder, Kharouf contacted Atir Lawisi, 20, of Tul Karm, and asked him to sell the car for him in the West Bank. Lawisi sold the car for 2,700 shekels (around $750), of which he gave Kharouf 2,500 shekels. Kharouf tried and failed twice to withdraw money out of Halimi’s bank account. Lawisi is charged with conspiring to commit a crime, trading in a stolen vehicle and entering Israel illegally.

Kharouf was arrested shortly after the murder but was released when he denied involvement. He was rearrested after police questioned several residents of the West Bank town of Taibeh who knew him and apparently incriminated him. Kharouf confessed and claimed he had killed Halimi as part of a plan to obtain freedom for Palestinian prisoners. But officials involved in the investigation say the fact that he initially denied involvement, stole Halimi’s car and tried to steal from her account indicate the killing was not politically motivated.

The victim’s husband, meanwhile, claims that Kharouf had forced her into a relationship against her will and killed her because she was Israeli.