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Sheikh Jarrah stabbing suspect said to be neighbor of victim

‘I screamed in pain, and my son said, ‘Mommy, you have a knife in your back,’ says Moriah Cohen; teenage suspect lives in home embroiled in East J’lem neighborhood eviction battle

Moriah Cohen, who was stabbed in Jerusalem on December 8, 2021, speaks after her release from the hospital. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Moriah Cohen, who was stabbed in Jerusalem on December 8, 2021, speaks after her release from the hospital. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The teenage girl suspected of stabbing an Israeli woman Wednesday morning in Jerusalem is her neighbor, the victim’s husband said after visiting his wife at the hospital where she was being treated for her wounds.

Moriah Cohen, 26, was lightly injured when an attacker plunged a foot-long (30 centimeter) knife into her back as she walked her five children to daycare in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Police said they suspect the stabber had terror motives.

Police said the suspect was a 14-year-old girl who lives in Sheikh Jarrah. A member of a well-known local family, the suspect lives in a home, like many in Sheikh Jarrah, embroiled in a court battle with Jewish groups that have contested the property’s ownership.

“The stabber is our neighbor, she lives right across from us,” husband Dvir Cohen told media, though he admitted the families are not friends.

Police officers arrested the girl a short time after the stabbing at her neighborhood school. Her father and mother were also detained for interrogation, as well as another student, a teacher, and the school’s principal.

School staff will be questioned as to whether there was any prior knowledge that the girl planned to carry out an attack, Channel 13 News reported.

A knife used in a Jerusalem stabbing attack on December 8, 2021 (Israel Police)

Mohammad Mahmoud, the suspect’s attorney, told The Times of Israel that she denies any connection to the incident. A hearing is set to be held on Thursday morning at the Jerusalem Magistrate Court.

Dvir Cohen, who was away doing army reserve duty at the time of the attack, claimed the suspect followed his wife, who was walking with their children who are between the ages of 5 and 3 months, before getting close enough to stab her.

A video leaked to Israeli media purporting to show the moments before the attack shows Cohen walking with the children. As she passes an intersection, a woman with a backpack comes alongside the family and then slows to allow them to pass. The woman stops to look around before continuing in the same direction as the Cohens.

Moriah Cohen told Channel 12 news on Wednesday evening that she noticed the assailant, “who had such hatred in her eyes.”

She then felt “a hard blow on my back, and I screamed in pain, and my son said to me, ‘Mommy, you have a knife in your back’.”

Screen capture from video of Dvir Cohen, whose wife Moriah was stabbed earlier in the day in Jerusalem, speaking with media after visiting his wife at the hospital, December 8, 2021. (Ynet)

In the commotion that followed, as she called for help, “the terrorist, it seems, panicked and ran away,” Dvir Cohen said.

“It was a miracle,” he said. “If she had continued, I don’t know how this would have ended. I don’t want to think about it.”

A 14-year-old Palestinian suspect is detained by Israel Police for allegedly stabbing an Israeli woman with a knife in a suspected terror attack on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 (Israel Police)

Moriah Cohen was rushed to Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital with light injuries. Medics said the children were unharmed and remained with police officers at the scene.

Cohen said his wife is “feeling fine” and that she is expected to be released from the hospital either later in the day or on Thursday.

“She said it hurts less than childbirth,” he quipped.

It was unclear if the alleged attacker targeted the victim specifically. The Cohens are one of several dozen Jewish families who live in the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood, near the heart of Jerusalem.

Police near the scene of a suspected terror stabbing in East Jerusalem, December 21, 2021. (Israel Police)

Sheikh Jarrah has emerged as a major source of tension in recent months due to a long-simmering court battle over a number of homes in the neighborhood that several Palestinian families have been living in for decades, but that Jewish groups claim legally belong to them.

Cohen said there have been issues between the Jewish and Arab residents for a while, with the latter often throwing stones at them, and during May fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip nearly a dozen Molotov cocktails were tossed at their home.

But, despite the danger, Dvir Cohen said the family will continue to live in the neighborhood.

“It is part of our mission in life,” he said.

“I won’t give up on being here,” Moriah Cohen said in her TV interview.

The incident comes after a string of similar terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. On Saturday, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed a man walking next to the Old City, then was shot dead by Border Police officers.

“We are in a period in which we have seen a series of incidents like this in the Jerusalem area,” a police spokesperson told Army Radio shortly after the attack, referring to a spate of stabbing attacks in and around the Old City of Jerusalem in recent weeks.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev, November 9, 2021. (Michael Giladi/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett commended the police on the “swift capture of the terrorist” and wished a speedy recovery to the victim, “a mother who was on her way to daycare with her children.”

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev said in a statement that the stabbing of a mother walking with her children was “a serious incident.”

Barlev praised the quick response by police in catching the suspect and wished Cohen a speedy recovery.

A still image of surveillance footage showing a suspect in the stabbing of an Israeli woman in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on December 8, 2021. (Israel Police)

Jerusalem District Police Chief Doron Turgeman, who arrived at the scene to assess the situation, said “we will continue a determined campaign against terror and act across the city to protect public peace and safety.”

Opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu also wished Cohen a full recovery and recommended that “an iron fist is the only answer to the increase in the number of terror attacks.”

Leader of the opposition far-right Religious Zionism party MK Bezalel Smotrich said he will hold an “emergency meeting in the Knesset to discuss the matter of increasing violence by Arabs against Jews across the country.”

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