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Knife-wielding Arab woman shot at Afula station may have had mental-health issues

Police are looking into the motives of a young Arab woman who was shot by police last week while she brandished a knife at the Afula central bus station.

The woman, 30, who is hospitalized at the Poriya Hospital near Tiberias in moderate condition, is reported by local media Yediot Haemek and Mynet to be the daughter of a well-known Muslim religious leader in the Galilee who is famous for his work on interfaith reconciliation.

The woman has a Master’s degree, and is a medical researcher at a well-known Israeli hospital.

Police say she bought the knife shortly before boarding a bus, in her hometown of Nazareth, headed to Afula. Police investigators have attempted to understand why she boarded a bus with the knife, amid a wave of Arab stabbing attacks against Jews nationwide, but traveled the entire ride to Afula without carrying out the attack — or why she then brandished it at the Afula terminal around large numbers of police and soldiers.

A still image taken from cellphone footage of security forces surrounding a knife-wielding Israeli Arab woman after she allegedly tried to stab a security guard at Afula bus station on Friday, October 9, 2015. (screen capture)
A still image taken from cellphone footage of security forces surrounding a knife-wielding Israeli Arab woman after she allegedly tried to stab a security guard at Afula bus station on October 9, 2015. (screen capture)

A security guard at the terminal initially told police he believed the woman was attacking him when she pulled the knife out of her purse while standing near him.

Investigators are said to be leaning toward a mental-health explanation for her behavior.

A video of her shooting went viral both on Palestinian and Israeli social media, and was posted to mainstream media on both sides. She is shown brandishing the knife, but not attacking, as several armed police officers and soldiers shout at her to put the knife down. After several tense minutes, a police officer arrives at a sprint, sees the woman holding the knife, and fires at her lower torso.

Hospital officials say they took six bullets out of her body, apparently all fired from the same gun.

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