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Teacher killed by stray bullet in Ramle, hours before start of school year

Mother-of-four Sharifa Abu Muammar, 30, apparently an unintended victim in a long-running dispute between 2 crime families in central city

Illustrative photo of police at a crime scene in the central city of Ramle, June 1, 2015. (Flash90)
Illustrative photo of police at a crime scene in the central city of Ramle, June 1, 2015. (Flash90)

A teacher was shot dead Monday night in her home in the central city of Ramle, hours before the school year began. The killing appeared to be an accidental result of an ongoing battle between two local crime organizations.

Sharifa Abu Muammar, 30, a mother of four, was reported to have been hit by a stray bullet while hanging laundry out to dry, during a gunfight between the groups.

She was rushed in critical condition to the nearby Yitzhak Shamir Medical Center, where doctors pronounced her dead.

Family and friends remembered Abu Muammar as a brilliant teacher, committed to her work, in one of Israel’s toughest, poorest neighborhoods.

Sharifa Abu Muammar (Dror High School)

Abu Muammar taught Arabic at Dror High School, a school for at-risk youth. The school merges conventional education with technical training; most of its students are Muslim Bedouins from poor communities.

“She was compassionate and kind towards everyone. She spoke about her students as if they were her own children — in addition to the four she had at home already,” recalled family member Saeed Abu Muammar.

Police arrested three people Tuesday morning over the incident, and they were expected to be brought later for a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court.

The three are residents of Ramle and the adjacent city of Lod, aged 20, 25 and 26, according to Israel Police.

A police investigation is ongoing, the report said, but officers believe the incident is linked to a triple murder three months ago near Lod and to a dispute between crime families in Ramle’s Jawarish neighborhood.

The three men killed in the suspected drive-by shooting at the Lod Interchange in June were Nahad al-Shamali, 28, Riad Akashi, 40, and Jibril Akashi, 28, all from Ramle. Police said they were fired upon from a moving vehicle. The car used to carrying out the shooting was later found burned near Palmachim Beach, according to police.

“Since the triple assassination we have been operating covertly and overtly in Jawarish,” an unnamed senior police source told Channel 12 on Tuesday. “There are two families there that are defined as instigators of crime and that have been in conflict… for years, causing many victims.”

Abu Muammar is the 56th murder victim among Arab Israelis this year. While 2019 saw violence reach record highs in Arab towns and villages, 2020 seems to set to be still bloodier.

Arab lawmakers and activists say that the violence stems from willful neglect by  police of the spread of organized crime in their communities.

“The police are now saying they will respond by sending more patrols in the area. But it’s not just about that. It’s about gathering illegal weapons. It’s about how even Arab mayors and city council members are being shot at and threatened by organized crime while the police do nothing,” Ramle city council member Ibrahim Badawiyeh told The Times of Israel.

Israel Police regularly update the public on captured illegal weapons. But for Saeed Abu Muammar, such attempts were not enough.

“I wish to send a message to Israel Police. If you had done your jobs and implemented the law in our community, this killing could never have happened,” Saeed Abu Muammar said.

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