Police Suspect Jewish Settlers Killed Palestinian Woman in West Bank

Authorities think settlers may have hurled stones at the car in which Aisha Mohammed Rabi and her husband were sitting ■ Shin Bet involved in investigation

Palestinians carry the body of Aisha Al-Rawbi during her funeral in the West Bank village of Biddya, Oct. 13, 2018.
AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed

Police suspect that the incident on Friday in which a Palestinian woman was killed when a stone struck her in the head was a deliberate act by settlers. The division within the Judea and Samaria District Police that handles far-right activity has been tasked with investigating, with involvement by the Shin Bet security service.

Thousands attended on Saturday the funeral of Aisha Mohammed Rabi, the Palestinian woman who, Palestinian reports had said, was killed late Friday night when settlers threw stones at her car near a West Bank checkpoint south of Nablus. Rabi, 47 and a mother of seven, was buried in Biddya, where she lived in the West Bank. A general strike was declared Saturday in the town in response to her death and all local shops and business were closed.

Aisha Mohammed Rabi

To really understand Israel and the Palestinians - subscribe to Haaretz

"I don’t have any doubt it was the settlers," Yacoub told Haaretz on Saturday. "There were six or seven of them, and it was clear that they were young. In such a place and time, no young Palestinian would dare stand there. The Za'atara area [in the West Bank] is always surrounded by a military force, and so it's clear that the settlers did it."

When asked if he expected the Israeli authorities to arrest the attackers, he responded: "You ask the authorities that question. They ought to know."

In the security establishment, there are differences of opinion about the incident. The police suspect that settlers who live nearby threw stones at the car in which Rabi and her husband were driving. But other sources involved in the investigation say there are doubts about the version relayed by Yacoub Rabi. Even though the investigation is being handled by the division of the Judea and Samaria District Police that deal with far-right activity, along with the Shin Bet, officials involved have not yet found any clear evidence that either Jews or Palestinians threw stones at the car. There is a gag order on the details of the investigation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke with Rabi's husband on Saturday. According to Palestinian news agency Maan, Abbas described her as "another martyr on the list of Palestinian martyrs" and said that she was "killed as a result of settler crimes under the auspices of the occupation state. This crime will not go unpunished." Abbas further said that "the Palestinian people are determined to remain and hold onto our land despite the crimes committed against them, and will struggle until the establishment of its state with East Jerusalem as its capital."

From the funeral of Aisha Mohammed Aravi, today.

A member of the Fatah Central Committee, Dalal Salameh, who attended the funeral said: "We are grieving the loss of a Palestinian woman who paid with her life for the aggression of the settlers – like the Dawabsheh family and the young man Mohammed Abu Khdeir. This doesn't give the settlers a right to this land, and we are telling them, you will not have a safe place here." She added: "This crime will not go unnoticed, and like those before it, it will reach the International Criminal Court."

Shafik Aw-Rabi, a relative, said: "This is the fate of the Palestinian people, who will pay with their blood and their land for their liberty. Umm Mohammed is another victim and another martyr on the long list, but we will not despair and we will not stop until we expel the last of the settlers from our land."   

The Judea and Samaria District police confirmed that they have opened an investigation into the matter.

According to Palestinian reports, Rabi and her husband, Yacoub, were driving when a group of settlers threw stones at their car. She was reportedly struck in the head with a stone and died shortly after. He was lightly wounded. He told Reuters: "The stones came from the side where the settlement is. I could hear the people speak Hebrew, but I didn't see them."

Issam, the husband's cousin, told Haaretz that the couple was heading home with two of their daughters after visiting a third daughter in Hebron. Issam said the car was struck by stones thrown from a hill near the Tapuach checkpoint, with one of the stones striking her inside the vehicle. The family was taken to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead. 

Issam told Haaretz that the family had not received any updates as of Saturday morning. "It's as if nothing happened and we did not lose a wife and a mother," Issam said.

The incident is the latest event in a violent week in the West Bank. On Thursday, two people were wounded in a stabbing attack on Thursday at the entrance to the Samaria regional brigade headquarters in the West Bank. On Sunday, two Israelis were killed at a factory in the Barkan Industrial Zone in the West Bank. The two victims, Ziv Hajbi, 35, and Kim Yehezkel-Levengrond, 29, were laid to rest on Monday and Sunday.

A manhunt remains underway for the assailant, Ashraf Walid Saliman Na'alwa, 23, who gave a coworker a note in which he said he planned to commit suicide and praised late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat prior to the shooting. The note led security forces to conclude that the shooting was a terror attack.