Family of Teacher Fatally Shot in Central Israel Insists Killing Was Not Accidental

Relatives claim the shots fired at the apartment building where Sharifa Abu Muammar lived were part of a growing feud with a rival local family

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Relatives of Sharifa Abu Muammar.
A day after her killing, relatives of Sharifa Abu Muammar (inset) sit adjacent to her home in Ramle, Sept. 1, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani

Relatives of Sharifa Abu Muammar, the 30-year-old schoolteacher who was shot to death Monday night in the central Israeli city of Ramle, pointed to bullet holes on Tuesday that had penetrated the walls of the apartment building where she lived. They took issue with reports that she had been killed accidentally by a stray bullet.

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One family member, Ma’aruf Abu Muammar, said he witnessed the shooting from a hut that serves as a family café of sorts. “All of a sudden, six or seven people showed up and some of them fired shots,” he recounted. “Two children were also sitting here. It was a regular evening. We are lucky we weren’t hurt. We had no idea she was inside the apartment,” he said, referring to the shooting victim.

The large number of bullets fired is an indication that the shooting wasn’t accidental, relatives insisted, and acknowledged that the family has been in a growing feud with another family.

“They fired on the house. It wasn’t in the air and there was no stray bullet,” one person said. “There had been a brawl down the street earlier and one of the gunmen stabbed our relative. And then they chased him into this area.”

The home of Sharifa Abu Muammar, who taught 11th grade at Ramle’s Dror High School, is in the city’s Gan Haqal Aleph neighborhood. A special team from the police district that has been assigned to investigate the case is focusing on the suspicion that the gunfire was not aimed specifically at her but instead was fired as a warning by the rival family.

The police believe there is a connection between the shooting and the altercation a few hours earlier on Monday. They suspect that members of the rival family shot from dozens of meters away at the group of buildings where Sharifa Abu Muammar lived and that one of the bullets penetrated her apartment, fatally hitting her in the neck.

On Tuesday, the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court extended the detention of three suspects who were arrested Monday night in the case. They are associated with the rival family and are known to have had involvement with weapons in Ramle.

One of them, a 26-year-old, was ordered to remain in custody for 10 more days, while the other two, who are 25 and 30, were ordered detained for six additional days. There is a gag order on additional details in the case.

Abu Muammar’s relatives said they had previously complained to the police about violent behavior on the rival family’s part and claim that nothing was done. “The fact that 56 Arabs in Israel have been murdered since the beginning of the year is a failure on the part of the police,” one relative said. “I asked the police several times to conduct a weapons search of the other family, but nothing happened.”

“I blame the police,” another relative said. “After the murder, there were more shots and the police were already here. We asked them to arrest the person who fired the shots, and it didn’t happen.” The police denied the allegation.

“We’re afraid,” said another family member, Hashem Abu Muammar. “The police are here only to issue coronavirus fines.”

Mohammed Abu Muammar, who is also related to the victim of the shooting, said he had filed a complaint with the police in early July alleging that members of the rival family had beaten his young son on the street. He too alleged that the police failed to act. The police said in response that the investigation of the case from July is ongoing and that they have been taking a range of steps to deal with the use of weapons in the Israeli Arab community.

The scene of the killing of Sharifa Abu Muammar.Credit: Meged Gozani

Sharifa Abu Muammar was a mother of three children ranging in age between 4 years and 6 months. Relatives said the four-year-old was the one who called for help following the shooting, running to his grandmother’s home with blood on his hands and saying that his mother wouldn’t wake up.

After the killing, the family said they had been informed that a police’s forensics unit would arrive at 7 A.M. Tuesday, but that it didn’t show up until noon. And as of Tuesday afternoon, they said, the children had not yet received counselling from a social worker.

Colleagues at Dror High School said on Tuesday that Sharifa Abu Muammar was the school’s social coordinator. She was described as “a dear and beloved educator” who worked with them for the past seven years.

“Just yesterday she came to school, decorated and prepared things all day to welcome the students. Sharifa was a teacher who was dedicated to her work, to the students and the staff. She was full of life, creativity and initiative,” a colleague said.

Last school year, Abu Muammar taught 12th grade. She had been due to meet a new class of 11th graders on the first day of school on Tuesday. The school is providing psychological support to students and staff through the Education Ministry, her coworkers said.

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