Of 22 women killed in 2023, 19 knew their killer, monitor finds

Israel Observatory on Femicide’s report doesn’t include hundreds of women murdered in October 7 Hamas massacre

Screen capture from video of an assailant, bottom right, stabbing a pregnant woman in Lod, November 30, 2023. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of an assailant, bottom right, stabbing a pregnant woman in Lod, November 30, 2023. (X. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

There were 22 incidents of femicide in Israel during 2023, a slight increase over the previous year, according to an annual report from a Hebrew University monitor group, released Monday.

The Israel Observatory on Femicide said the number of deaths is “underscoring the persistent threat faced by women.”

Data showed an 8.3 percent increase over 2022. Over half the victims were stabbed to death, while 18% died of gunshot wounds.

“The rest of the cases included tying the victim down in a car and burning her, pushing her down the stairs, hitting her with a sharp instrument, and strangulation,” the report said.

The oldest victim was 76, the youngest just 18. Among perpetrators, the oldest was 86, and the youngest was 14.

The report did not include victims of the devastating October 7 Hamas terror attacks but did have a section addressing the atrocities committed that day.

Bara’ah Jaber Masarwa (right) and her sons Amir and Adam, murdered overnight in Taibe on May 1, 2023. (Courtesy)

Statistics were compiled based on local and national media reports, information on the internet, interviews, and police numbers. Noting a possible discrepancy between its tally and the total number of women killed, the report explained that “sometimes the murder of women reported in the media does not constitute femicide, when she is killed by accident, or because of a criminal act, and not on account of her gender.”

Of the victims, half were Jewish and 41% were members of the broader Arab community, including Druze, Bedouin, and Muslim women.

Although data showed a slight drop in homicides among Arab women even as the overall homicide rate in the Arab community skyrocketed in 2023, the figure for Arab women “remains stark.”

Motives for femicide in the Arab community, which makes up 21% of the total population, are often related to “perceived harm to family honor due to the victim’s lifestyle,” the report said, noting “unprecedented” cases such as the “targeted killing” of a lesbian woman from the Druze community.

In general, perpetrators were nearly all from the same ethnic communities as their victims (95%), and of the known killers 59% were either current or past partners of the victims. In 86% of cases (19), victims shared a prior relationship with the perpetrators.

Only three of the victims had previously reported domestic violence to police and only one had filed a complaint. Two of the perpetrators had previous criminal records.

Illustrative: A protest against violence against women in Tel Aviv, December 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The report also found that in nine cases neighbors were aware of prior violence by the perpetrators against their victims but did not report it to authorities.

Six victims were killed by their partners during altercations. In four of those cases, family and friends had previously known about the perpetrator’s violent attacks against the victim.

In nearly a quarter of cases, a family member or other person was a witness to the crime. In four cases, at least one child of the victim saw the murder, the report said, and in another case the victim’s partner was present. In one other incident, a neighbor witnessed the femicide.

In some of the cases, children were also killed, and one child was stabbed. Two victims were pregnant when they were murdered and their fetuses did not survive.

In three of the cases, the perpetrators claimed to have been in a psychotic state when they carried out the homicides, and two had previously been hospitalized in psychiatric wings. In three other cases, the killings were carried out by a man under the influence of alcohol, “shedding light on the intersections of mental health and substance abuse in these tragic incidents,” the report said.

In two cases the murderer tried to commit suicide.

Five cases of femicide, three of them in the Arab community, have not yet been solved by police, the report noted.

Reli Peri, who was murdered by her husband in May 2023 (Social media: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Observatory said its annual reports are meant “to shed light on the stark realities surrounding these tragic incidents and inform strategies for prevention and justice.”

It emphasized the necessity for a “collective approach” that aims “to address systemic issues, bolster support structures for victims, enhance reporting mechanisms, and foster awareness to prevent such tragic incidents from recurring.”

The report noted that a third of the cases in 2023 happened after the outbreak of war against the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, “indicating a potential correlation between escalated conflicts and increased violence against women.”

“Gender-based murders are a crime against humanity and they have to stop. They occur in every country, but no country has suffered the exponential rise in femicides this year as a result of the barbaric attack of Hamas on 7 October in which women and girls were raped and murdered and targeted because they were women,” Observatory director Prof. Shalva Weil said.

On October 7 Hamas led thousands of terrorists to burst through the border from the Gaza Strip and into southern Israel. There, the terrorists rampaged murderously through southern regions, killing over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. They also abducted at least 240 who were taken as hostages in Gaza.

As the terrorists overran communities, army posts, and a music festival they brutally raped, mutilated, and executed women in acts of sexual violence.

A screenshot from a video filmed on October 8 shows the burned remains of a woman by the side of the road, with no underwear and her legs spread. Police officials believe the woman, identified as Gal Abdush, 34, from central Israel, was raped. (Screenshot, Telegram, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“While the IOF does not usually include murder of women as a result of terrorist acts, some of the killings which took place on October 7 can be considered to be femicides, in that women were targeted as women, and underwent sexual violence prior to their murder,” the Observatory said.

“Many women were sexually assaulted, their intimate parts were dissected, and they suffered other atrocities like mothers being forced to see their children beheaded.”

It cited a Ynet report from Sunday that said that around 300 women were murdered in border communities during the attacks and noted that “hundreds of men were also murdered, and some raped.”

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