A Palestinian woman charged with an attempted stabbing attack against Israeli settlers is set to give birth in prison while awaiting trial, in reportedly the first such incident in nearly a decade and a half.
Anhar Al-Deek, 25, was arrested on March 8 at the illegal Israeli farming outpost of Sdeh Ephraim, which lies outside the Palestinian town of Ras Karkar in the central West Bank. In April, an Israeli military judge ordered her to remain in jail until the end of the proceedings against her.
Al-Deek was already pregnant at the time of her arrest. As she has neared her due date in Israeli prison, her story has swamped Palestinian social media. The hashtag “Save Anhar al-Deek” trended in Arabic multiple times, and articles about her have been disseminated widely in Arabic-language media.
The last Palestinian woman to give birth while in Israeli prison was Gaza resident Fatima al-Ziq in 2008, according to a report by the official Palestinian WAFA news agency.
Palestinian security prisoners are treated like any other detainee when it comes to giving birth behind bars, said Israel Prison Services spokesperson Hanna Herbst-Shechter.
“According to IPS regulations, mothers in prisons can keep babies up to the age of two with them. The IPS is prepared and ready to deal with these situations,” Herbst-Shechter said.
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The prison system declined to comment further on the matter. A security official familiar with the regulations, however, explained that al-Deek would be taken to an Israeli hospital while under guard.
The security official denied claims circulating in some Palestinian media that al-Deek would be forced to give birth chained to her hospital bed.
“[Her guards] will stand outside the door, of course. She will give birth in a hospital, in the conditions one expects from a hospital, but they won’t just put her in a taxi and send her off,” the official said.
According to Israeli military prosecutors, Al-Deek broke into Sdeh Ephraim’s farmhouse, grabbed a knife from the kitchen, and sought to attack one of the farm’s owners, Leah Ze’ev, who called her husband on the phone for help.
Ze’ev’s two daughters, aged eight and one years old, were present in the house at the time. The eight-year-old daughter fled the scene as al-Deek picked up a ten-centimeter-long knife, according to the indictment.
Al-Deek “waved [the knife] as she approached the victim, who had backed away and called for help,” the indictment said.
Ze’ev fled the house with her one-year-old daughter and slammed the door on al-Deek, who continued to wave the knife at her from inside. Around then, Ze’ev’s husband Eitan arrived with his brother and subdued al-Deek at gunpoint, according to the indictment.
As soon as al-Deek saw their weapons, she threw down the knife, and they held her until Israeli forces arrived on the scene, prosecutors said.
The incident was not the first violent encounter between the Ze’ev family and local Palestinians. The establishment of the Sdeh Ephraim outpost near Ras Karkar in 2017 occasioned protests — some of them violent — by Palestinian residents.
Sdeh Eprahim’s owner Eitan Ze’ev has also been on trial over the past year and a half for alleged wrongful shooting of multiple Palestinians on a farm near Nablus in July 2020. Ze’ev’s gun was confiscated from him as part of the proceedings against him.
Another alleged terror attack took place at the farm in February 2021, when a young Palestinan accountant Khalid Maher Nofal was shot and killed by Ze’ev in murky circumstances in the dead of night. According to the Israeli military, Nofal sought to break into the farmhouse, calling out “Allahu Akbar,” leading to a fatal struggle with Ze’ev that left him dead.
Based on Ze’ev’s testimony, the army quickly announced that the incident was terrorism. But the army also acknowledged that Nofal had arrived at the hilltop unarmed.
Al-Deek was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a knife. Her lawyer, Akram Samareh, said she had suffered from a history of mental illness. She had not been in her right mind when she committed the crime, he said.
“It’s a matter of mental illness. She didn’t know how she ended up there…she says she wasn’t conscious when she was doing this thing,” Samareh said in a phone call.
Samareh said that al-Deek was not psychologically fit to stand trial and ought to be released. Prosecutors have submitted a psychiatric opinion to the court contesting his claims. The court has requested further information on the matter, according to the Israeli military.
“A Palestinian says she’s mentally ill and the Israelis say she’s not. Who is an Israeli court supposed to believe? Obviously the Israeli,” Samareh said.
Afterwards, it will be al-Deek’s choice whether or not to keep the child with her in prison for up to two years. Such cases are challenging, the security official acknowledged, as they mean balancing competing values: bringing an innocent person into jail, while at the same time valuing the right of the detained mother to remain with their child.
“But we’re speaking of a detainee, not someone who’s been sentenced. So it could be the case that she won’t end up serving time at all, and it’s not clear where this will go,” the official said.
Samareh said that his client deserved to give birth to her child “in the hospital she wishes, in the conditions she wishes.”
“She wants to raise her children free. Can she really raise him between four walls?” Samareh said.