A man with a history of domestic violence who went on the run for three weeks after stabbing his ex-wife claimed on Tuesday that he hadn’t meant to kill her.
The Nazareth Magistrate’s Court ordered Rabia Kna’aneh to remain behind bars for at least eight more days at an arraignment hearing Tuesday, a day after he was captured.
Kna’aneh, 40, is suspected of murdering his ex-wife, Wafa Kna’aneh, 37.
Outside the hearing, Kna’aneh, who was detained while trying to steal a car, admitted to stabbing Wafa, but denied that he had deliberately killed her.
“I do not deny that I stabbed her. I stabbed her twice in the shoulder,” Kna’aneh told reporters at court. “I did not mean to murder her, I love her. I did it from nerves.”
Kna’aneh said that he had spent the three weeks on the run in a forest near his home and hadn’t received assistance from friends or relatives during that period.
“I didn’t hide. I was by my house in the forest the whole time” he said. “The police did shoddy work.”
The victim’s family previously claimed police had stopped searching for the suspect. Police denied the accusation.
Kna’aneh attempted to stab a police officer during the course of his arrest near the northern town of Sakhnin on Tuesday, according to Hebrew media reports.
Police managed to restrain him and bring him into custody. There were no reports of injuries in the incident.
Police suspect that Kna’aneh deliberately crashed his car into the vehicle of his ex-wife in the northern Arab Israeli city of Arraba on November 16 and then stabbed her to death.
The two were locked in a custody battle over their children. Kna’aneh had a history of domestic violence that previously saw him serve six months in prison, Channel 12 news reported.
He later violated the terms of his release and was given another six months on probation. Another related domestic violence complaint was filed against him in October, the report said.
Wafa, 37, was the mother of four children aged 12-18, and had lived for almost a year in a women’s shelter due to threats from her former husband, the Walla news website reported.
According to Ynet, hours before Wafa was murdered, both she and her ex-husband appeared at the sharia court in the northern town of Sakhnin for a custody hearing, where she reportedly expressed consternation regarding the welfare authorities.
Wafa’s relatives told the outlet that the Arraba welfare authorities told the court that the children should stay with their father from Sunday to Wednesday, and with their mother only on the weekends. However, the court ultimately decided that the mother would take care of the children from Sunday to Wednesday, while the father would look after them on the weekends.
Wafa reportedly told the court that she had not seen her two older children since she left the family home around a year and a half ago.
Eyewitnesses to the stabbing said that after Kna’aneh crashed the car, the two exited their vehicles and argued over who would take care of the children. He then pulled out a knife and stabbed her.
Passersby reportedly tried to keep him away. Kna’aneh then fled the scene in his car.
Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman on Monday hailed the arrest, but said, “There was no reason it should take so long, while the family lives in fear.”
“Let’s hope that this is the first step in cracking the 60% of murder cases in Arab communities that haven’t been solved. Now it’s time the legal system, which abandoned Wafa during her lifetime, offer her justice.”
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.