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Arab Israeli Women Who Went Missing Found in Central Israel

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'All the signals were there but nobody lifted a finger,' welfare authorities say about the suspected murder of Najlaa Alamuri, a 19-year-old whose relatives are under arrest

A forensic team confirmed Tuesday that the body of the woman they found is 19-year-old Najlaa Alamuri. The body the Israeli Arab woman was found in Tel Hadid in central Israel on Saturday after going missing two weeks ago.

Alamuri was buried in Lod Tuesday evening. The cause of her death is still unclear.

Immediately after the discovery of the body, police arrested five of Alamuri's relatives, including a minor aged 15 and three women on suspicion of involvement in her killing, which followed years of violence and threats on her family's part.

She was last seen in early April, around the time a family member was released from prison after serving time for attempting to lock her up. He is one of the five arrested on Sunday night, whose remand was extended on Monday.

Alamuri's body was taken to the Abu Kabir forensic institute for autopsy and to determine the cause of death and for conclusive identification of the body.

The court imposed a gag order on the details of the investigation and the suspects.

The latest chapter of Alamuri's sour relationship with her family began in September, when she left the home for about a month and said she wouldn't be returning.

A police station in Lod, central Israel, March 2019. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

She was offered police protection, and in October told the Lod police that her family wants to hurt her, but failed to name the specific family members she feared. She also refused the police's suggestion that she enter a shelter for battered women.

A family member learned that she was at the police station and went there to take her home by force, and found her as she was leaving the station by the rear entrance. Hearing her shouts, the police arrested him – a man with a long record of drug and violence offenses, who was also deemed dangerous to his family.

A day after the incident, another family member was arrested on suspicions of abetting him. Under questioning, the two said they just wanted to talk with Alamuri because they were worried that she would be "running around in the streets."

A source with Lod municipal social services said they first took her case after her complaint, which he said followed an attempted abduction by Alamuri's relatives. She agreed to meet a social worker several days later, when she once again refused to leave home for a shelter.

Later in October, social workers contacted Alamuri's mother, after she didn't make it to a scheduled appointment. The mother said her daughter ran from home, while a friend of Alamuri's told social services she moved to another city, and wasn't interested in any contact or protection. Authorities' contact with her has been cut since then.

Around the time of the incident at the police station, one of the two men involved met with Hajj Karim Jarushi, who helps the police resolve feuds in the Arab society, and gave him and the police a written undertaking that no harm would come to Alamuri. The undertaking, however, has no force in law. (Last month, Diana Abu Qatifan was murdered after her relatives signed a similar document.)

During the legal proceedings against the two, which lasted about two months, Alamuri told the police that she didn't want her relatives to serve jail time. Eventually, the two agreed to a plea bargain on charges of conspiring to commit a crime and attempted false imprisonment. One was sentenced to six months and was released earlier this year. The second was sentenced to community service which was converted into prison time. He was also released earlier this month.

The plea bargain had been reached because of the difficulty of proving the attempted abduction: The incident in question was short-lived and did not reach the stage of full execution, prosecutor Shirley Lugasi explained at the time. The plea bargain also spared Alamuri from having to testify against her relatives in court, which she did not want to do, Lugasi said.

After her disappearance two weeks ago, a number of women concerned for their own well-being contacted welfare services, sources in the Lod municipality say. A classmate of Alamuri's texted Samah Salaime, a social worker and head of AWC (Arab Women in the Center): "I'm next in line," she wrote.

In Lod, almost every man has a gun, crime rules the streets and women's lives are in danger, which nobody cares about, Salaime said. "All the signals were there and the alerts were sounding at the authorities, but nobody lifted a finger."

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