Terrorist pretended to shop before stabbing woman, witness recalls

Manager says her screams and those of other women at the scene helped scare Palestinian assailant away from Tekoa secondhand shop

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A clothing warehouse where a woman was stabbed in the settlement of Tekoa on Monday, January 18, 2016. (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)
A clothing warehouse where a woman was stabbed in the settlement of Tekoa on Monday, January 18, 2016. (Joshua Davidovich/Times of Israel)

The manager of the secondhand clothing store where a teenage Palestinian terrorist stabbed and moderately injured a pregnant woman in a West Bank settlement Monday said the attacker came in as a shopper before turning on his victim.

Michal Froman, a 30-year-old resident of Tekoa, was at the shop with her young children when she was stabbed, said Chani Gimpel, who was minding the clothing store at the time of the attack.

She said the attacker, later identified as Othman Muhammad Sha’alan, 15, came in shortly after 10 a.m., when she opened the store, in an industrial area on the edge of the settlement, southeast of Jerusalem.

“I was immediately suspicious of him, because of the way he was acting,” she told The Times of Israel. “He had his hands in his pockets and was wandering around the store asking the prices of different items. He had a very thick Arabic accent.”

Officials said the attacker sneaked into the settlement via a hole in a fence and then made his way to the nearby store, inside a warehouse.

“I don’t know why, but in the pit of my stomach I knew something wasn’t right,” Gimpel said.

Gimpel asked Sha’alan what he was doing at the store and backed away from him and told the other two women to do the same.

“I would have called someone, but my phone was behind the counter, and I couldn’t get to it right then,” she said.

The teenage assailant then pulled out a blade from his pocket and stabbed Froman in the back.

Medics wheel a wounded Michal Forman into the emergency room of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center on January 18, 2016. Froman, who is pregnant, was wounded in a stabbing attack in the settlement of Tekoa (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Medics wheel a wounded Michal Froman into the emergency room of the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, January 18, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“As soon as it happened, we all started screaming hysterically. I think that’s what scared him off, because he ran away after stabbing her only once.”

Shortly after fleeing the scene, the 15-year-old stabber was shot by an armed civilian and taken to a hospital for treatment.

“It’s really a miracle that nobody was hurt worse,” Gimpel said, noting that her store usually is much busier later in the day with shoppers and volunteers.

“It really makes you feel powerless when something like that happens in your safe space,” added Gimpel.

“It’s hard for me to imagine why someone would attack pregnant women while they shop with their children.”

Froman sustained moderate injuries from the stabbing, including a punctured lung. Her mother-in-law, Hadassah, said Michal was “about halfway through her pregnancy,” and that the fetus “is absolutely fine, thank God; it’s a big miracle.”

The stabbing came a day after a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death Dafna Meir, a mother of six, in her home in the Otniel settlement, south of Hebron. The assailant fled and a massive manhunt has been underway to apprehend him.

Monday’s attack was the latest in a four-month wave of violence that shows no sign of abating. Palestinian attacks have killed 25 Israelis, an American student and an Eritrean man. At least 146 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, of whom most are said by Israel to have been attackers. The rest have been killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

Israel says the violence is the result of a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement. The Palestinians say it is rooted in frustrations over Israel’s almost 50-year occupation.

Judah Ari Gross, Joshua Davidovich and Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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