Almost a month after a Druze teen was shot dead following relentless death threats from her brothers over her sexual orientation, police arrested five suspects from northern Israel on Tuesday, with four of them remanded in custody on Wednesday.
Sarit Ahmad, 18, was killed on June 9, in a shooting that police suspect was linked to her lesbian identity. She was the 99th member of the Arab community killed since the start of 2023, a toll that has since risen to 114.
A day after the suspected murder, police said they were searching for one of her brothers, who had disappeared after the incident. They claimed to have evidence linking him to the killing. The brothers were arrested and briefly jailed in 2021 after she filed a police complaint against them.
The newly arrested suspects are all men in their 30s from the north who are suspected of involvement in the murder. Further details are gagged by a court order, though the Israel Hayom news site reported that none of the suspects are Ahmad’s relatives and none are residents of Kisra-Sumei, near which the murder happened.
On Wednesday, the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court extended the remand of four suspects by eight days. It was unclear whether the fifth suspect was released.
According to Hebrew media reports, Ahmad was forced to flee to a women’s shelter where she lived for a year after she was threatened by her brothers. In May, she filed another police complaint after receiving additional threats from her brother and agreed to move to a shelter in Beersheba.
However, she soon regretted the decision and moved to live with her sister in the northern town of Sajur.
She was shot dead while sitting in her car outside the majority-Druze locality Kisra-Sumei in the western Galilee region.
A television reporter was attacked last month while covering a pro-LGBTQ memorial event for Ahmad.
Ali Mugrabi of Channel 13 news, who was with cameraman Gideon Lev Ari, said the suspects approached them as the event dispersed and were angered that they were covering the LGBTQ community.
Ahmad complained three years ago to police that her brothers were threatening to murder her, with one offering NIS 200,000 ($56,000) for her killing after she spoke about being in a romantic relationship with another woman.
“The brother that discovered [the relationship] is 30 years old. He took my phone and threatened to pay someone to kill me. He made the threats a few times in one day,” Ahmad told police in 2020, when she was 15, according to details of the complaint aired last month on Channel 12 news.
“I spoke with my father and told him: ‘I am your daughter and you have to accept me.’ I said to him that I am a lesbian. He began to say: ‘You aren’t like that and if your brothers hear this they will kill you,'” she said.
Asked by police how the conversation ended, Ahmad said that her father believed that she could change her sexuality.
She also said that her other brother threatened to stab her after overhearing her talk about her girlfriend with her parents.
“I will stab her with a knife in the stomach. After that, I will have a beer, as if nothing happened,” Ahmad overheard her brother say.