The Palestinian teenager suspected of stabbing an Israeli woman in the West Bank settlement of Tekoa Tuesday was shot in the leg when he tried to attack his captors, eye-witnesses and officials said after the attack. One said that the suspect, who had been disarmed and was in his underwear, tried to grab the gun of one of the civilians who was detaining him.
The 15-year-old Palestinian, Othman Muhammad Sha’alan, entered the settlement through a hole in the perimeter fence — according to some accounts he made the hole himself — around 10 a.m. on Tuesday. At 10:17, Tekoa’s private security team received a call saying a woman had been stabbed near the community’s second-hand clothing warehouse, according to a document obtained by The Times of Israel.
Sha’alan had entered the warehouse and stabbed Michal Froman, 30. She later said he had drawn a knife and seemed distressed and that she approached him because she wanted to help him.
Froman, who is approximately five months pregnant, was moderately injured. As passers-by rushed to assist her, Sha’alan fled for the hole in the fence from which he had entered.
An armed civilian gave chase, his licensed pistol drawn, and called on Sha’alan to halt. The stabber did stop, but only after the civilian fired a warning shot in the air, a witness who was at the scene told The Times of Israel. The witness spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Sha’alan at that point no longer had a knife, and his civilian captor told him to strip to his underwear in order to ensure that he did not have any other weapons on his person, the witness said.
Another armed civilian, a resident of a nearby settlement who works in Tekoa, then arrived at the scene. The two civilians trained their handguns on the attacker, in order to prevent his escape until security forces arrived to pick him up.
The settlement’s security liaison with the army, Reuven Shadur, was among a group of people who were next at the scene.
According to an internal report on the incident that was prepared by Tekoa security and obtained by The Times of Israel, Shadur “was directed toward the terrorist’s escape path and began searching the area for him. After a few seconds, he identified the assailant being led by two civilians, after he had been stripped, toward the industrial area.”
As security forces arrived at the scene, “the terrorist attempted to attack one of the civilians and was shot in the leg,” according to the document. Sha’alan suffered one gunshot wound, a Tekoa security official said.
Local regional council head Davidi Perl said at the time that the attacker was “half dead,” and he appeared to be unconscious. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the army mistakenly issued a statement saying that he was in fact dead.
Sha’alan was treated by medics at the scene before being taken to a nearby hospital in moderate condition.
The security official on the scene, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told The Times of Israel that Sha’alan “attempted to attack one of the civilians and tried to snatch his gun.”
The civilian then opened fire on the assailant, who “fell down and remained subdued,” the report said.
A spokesperson for the Israel Police, which is charged with investigating the incident, refused to comment on what she said was on an ongoing investigation.
The IDF also refused to discuss the circumstances of the shooting, beyond confirming that a civilian, and not a soldier, had fired the shot.
A minute or two after Sha’alan was shot, an ambulance arrived to treat Froman, the victim, who had by then been moved into a nearby vehicle out of harm’s way, the internal report said.
Three minutes later a second ambulance arrived to treat Sha’alan.
The entire incident, from the stabbing to Sha’alan’s arrest, lasted less than 15 minutes, though the attack prompted heightened patrols in the settlement that lasted until late that afternoon.
On Tuesday, Froman, who was hospitalized to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, expressed empathy for her attacker. “I saw his eyes, his confusion,” she told Army Radio. “He didn’t have a scary face; he was a youth with a baby face. I didn’t want to really believe he was a terrorist.”
Froman is married to the son of Rabbi Menachem Froman, a noted peace activist in the settler community who worked to promote grassroots peace initiatives and dialogue between Jews and Palestinians before his death in 2013.
Michal Froman’s husband, Shivi Froman, told The Times of Israel Tuesday that the incident did not weaken his belief in coexistence with the Palestinians, an ideology that emulates his father’s worldview.
“We need to approach the situation with both hands — the left hand to fight with and the right hand to embrace,” he said. “[The attack] has only sharpened my opinions.”
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.