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Police say knife-wielding Afula woman was not a terrorist

Asra’a Zidan Abed, injured by cops as she brandished weapon, had history of mental illness, may have tried to get shot after losing custody of her child

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

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 Friday, October 9, 2015. (screen capture)

A woman shot by police at the Afula bus station as she brandished a knife at security forces on October 9 did not intend to carry out a terror attack, police have concluded following an investigation into the incident.

Asra’a Zidan Abed will not be indicted for attempted murder and instead faces relatively minor charges of carrying a dangerous weapon.

Police and Shin Bet investigators submitted their joint findings to state prosecutors Wednesday, saying they believed Abed did not plan to stab anyone when she wielded the knife at the station, but was pretending to be a Palestinian terrorist in the hope that she would be shot by security forces.

Thirty-year-old Abed was shot and injured during a tense standoff with police.

A video of the incident 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRNrMWKtorw&oref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DKRNrMWKtorw&has_verified=1

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.

Police say she bought the knife shortly before boarding a bus in her hometown of Nazareth. Investigators were puzzled at why she boarded a bus with the knife but traveled the entire ride to Afula without carrying out an attack — or why she then brandished it at the Afula terminal around large numbers of police and soldiers.

Earlier in the investigation police said they thought Abed may suffer from mental health issues. Suspicions were confirmed after discovering a history of suicide attempts and hospitalizations, the police report noted. Investigators think she was trying to commit suicide, having recently lost custody of a child.

According to officials, a key indication she did not intend to hurt anyone was the video of the incident. Before taking out the knife, Abed can be seen talking to a young ultra-Orthodox man. Instead of stabbing him from that close proximity, she help her knife up for nearby security officers to see and started shouting.

Abed was hospitalized at the Poriya Hospital near Tiberias in moderate condition. Hospital officials say they took six bullets out of her body, apparently all fired from the same gun.

Local media outlets Yediot Haemek and Mynet reported Abed to be the daughter of a well-known Muslim religious leader in the Galilee who is famous for his work on interfaith reconciliation.

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