(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
The body of a missing Jewish woman from the Binyamin region of the West Bank was found by police last week after her Arab boyfriend confessed to strangling her and bashing her head with rocks in Holon to “release Palestinian prisoners.”
Police first received a report that Michal Halimi, 29, who was pregnant and married to another man, was missing at the end of May and launched an investigation to find her. A gag order, lifted Wednesday, was implemented for the duration of the search.
It remains unclear who the father of the child was.
“In the course of the investigation, it emerged that the missing woman had voluntarily left Binyamin, and apparently was staying at the home of a young Palestinian man from Nablus with whom she was in a relationship,” police said Wednesday.
“Based on preliminary findings, including images and posts the two shared on Facebook, they intended to become engaged. As the investigation unfolded, the suspect was arrested and in the first stage of his interrogation contradictions arose regarding the whereabouts of the missing person, a fact that raised the suspicion of his involvement in her absence.”
As the investigation intensified, associates who were in regular contact with the suspect, identified as Muhammad Harouf, were detained and questioned. During their interrogations they confirmed that Halimi was in a relationship with Harouf, and that she went missing the day the two last met in Holon.
As evidence mounted that Halimi was dead, the boyfriend eventually confessed to killing her in Holon and reconstructed the murder for police. Her corpse was located on July 24.
“According to his version, he met the deceased in the Holon area, choked her, threw stones at her head, covered her body, and left the scene in her car in order to ‘release Palestinian prisoners,’” police said.
Following Harouf’s arrest, the Yad L’Achim organization accused the police of negligence in their handling of the investigation for taking too long to solve the murder, and for lifting the gag order without contacting the victim’s family.
The organization said Halimi’s husband asked it for aid in finding his wife shortly after her disappearance.
“The family discovered this morning that the gag order in the case was lifted and the murder was published in the media a few hours before Michal’s funeral,” the organization said in a statement.
“The conduct of the police in this case [mirrors] the conduct of other cases that we have accompanied them on in the past, when they are slow and do not understand the gravity of things.”
The organization added that Halimi’s murder is “part of the long statistics of Jewish women who find themselves in romantic relationships with Arabs, and then find themselves in a violent and suffocating situation.”
“In Yad L’Achim, we encounter such cases on a regular basis and try to help and support these women in finding a way to build a new life,” the organization said.
The suspect was arraigned on first-degree murder charges at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
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