A woman who was shot 18 times earlier this year and survived against all odds said the police and government are not doing enough to protect or help her as her assailants remain at large.
Lamis Abu Laban, a 26-year-old mother of three who had recently divorced her abusive husband, was shot by masked assailants as she was driving up to her parents’ home one February night.
“My case is a painful one. Eighteen bullets and I’m still alive,” she told Channel 12 news in an interview broadcast Wednesday.
After multiple surgeries and a months-long recovery, she was put in protective custody and for the past few months has been switching apartments on a regular basis as a safety measure. She said she is unable to work.
“I always felt like something would happen to me one day,” she said. “I had a feeling, but never expected this. Being hit by 18 bullets is not normal,” she said.
Abu Laban was married at a young age and gave birth to her three children before she turned 18. The 26-year-old said that while her other children didn’t fully grasp the situation, “my 11-year-old daughter understands everything.”
Abu Laban suffered physical abuse from her husband and was eventually forced to move into a women’s shelter. She decided that she would get a divorce, even though some members of her family opposed the move.
Recalling the moments of being shot in February, Abu Laban said she thought she wasn’t going to survive.
“I returned at 11 o’clock at night and entered the parking lot of the house. A black Chevrolet car came up behind me, quickly. There were two men — one driving and the other got out of the car,” she said.
“My family heard the gunshots. My father was in a bad shape and was screaming ‘don’t die.’ At that moment I felt like I was not coming back. I looked up, it was raining and I remembered my kids. It was a hard moment. I started thinking about who would take care of them,” she said.
Abu Laban said she is still deeply traumatized by the attack.
“I take sleeping pills because I can’t usually fall asleep until 7 or 8 in the morning. I constantly have bad dreams,” she said.
She said she fears for her safety and that of those around her, and therefore only sees her children through video calls.
The woman was critical of the police and the state, saying that they were not doing enough to help her.
She said that she is unable to work due to her physical and mental health, as well as safety concerns.
“They should call and come visit me, but they don’t. They don’t ask about me, they don’t pick up the phone,” she said, adding that she feels that the state has neglected her.
“I haven’t received anything from the National Insurance Institute. They don’t understand what I’m going through. I’m living my life in fear. I’ve been through something pretty difficult and I want the state to notice me. I don’t feel safe,” Abu Laban said.
Abu Laban said she knew Rabab Abu Siyam, a 30-year-old elementary school teacher who was shot dead last week in Lod in front of her 2-year-old daughter.
“I knew Rabab and her family, it’s painful,” she said. “It reminded me of myself – we were in the same situation.”
Responding to the report, the National Insurance Institute said it had tried to reach Abu Laban but was unable to.
“Representatives tried to reach [Abu Laban] and her relatives on several occasions through phone calls, text messages and letters,” the National Insurance Institute said in a statement, adding it “intends to provide [Abu Laban] with the full extent of her rights.”
A few of her friends have launched a fundraising campaign called “Saving Lamis” on the Give Back website.
Meanwhile, the police investigation into the shooting has so far failed to yield any significant results.
Abu Laban’s ex-husband was arrested shortly after the incident but was released the same day.
Police then turned their focus to Abu Laban’s brother, who they said had contacted an unknown individual regarding her attempted murder. His lawyer claimed at the time he was at the movie theater with other family members when the shooting occurred.
He was eventually released to house arrest, which has since ended.
Three other suspects were arrested since then, all of whom were eventually released as well.
The investigation into Abu Laban’s attempted murder is still underway.
Activists have long complained that not enough is done to prevent violence against women in Israel, particularly in cases known to the authorities.
A study by the Hebrew University-based Israel Observatory on Femicide examining the first half of 2022 found a 71 percent increase in femicide relative to the same period last year — 12 compared to seven.
Earlier this week, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court overturned a previous decision to force a woman into a protective shelter due to concerns about her safety.
The court accepted the woman’s position that she could not be forced into the shelter against her will. The woman in question, also from Lod, faces threats to her life from her ex-husband, who is suspected of repeatedly harassing her and had set her car on fire in the past.