Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh says a number of people have been called in for questioning over the death of a 21-year-old woman under suspicious circumstances, in a case that sparked widespread anger in the occupied West Bank.
Though the exact circumstances surrounding Israa Gharib’s death last month remain unknown, rights activists have alleged she died after being beaten by family members in a so-called “honour killing” – an accusation the family rejects.
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“A number of people have been arrested for interrogation,” Shtayyeh told a cabinet meeting on Monday, without providing further details.
He promised to reveal in due course the results of a forensic examination and of an ongoing investigation into the case.
Scores of people on Monday amassed by Shtayyeh’s office in Ramallah, demanding justice for Gharib and calling on the Palestinian Authority to amend laws to tackle domestic violence.
Protesters in front of the P.M.’s office in Ramallah demanding justice for #IsraaGhrayeb & protection for women from violence & discrimination. “Honor” crimes are dishonourable premeditated murder. #كلنا_اسراء_غريب pic.twitter.com/Q2IvvF9SJ4
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) September 2, 2019
In response, Minister of Women’s Affairs Amal Hamad said the government would “soon” take steps to establish a comprehensive system for the protection of women, according to local media.
In a post published on his Facebook account, Shtayyeh on Saturday described Gharib’s case as one that had become a “public issue”.
“We … are required to strengthen the system of legislation protecting Palestinian women,” he wrote.
Gharib was reportedly killed on August 22, just days after she was discharged from a hospital in her hometown of Beit Sahour near Bethlehem where she had been admitted for a spinal injury about two weeks prior, according to local media reports.
Citing a close friend, the reports said Gharib had sustained the injuries from beatings for allegedly posting a video on social media while out in public with her fiancee. Her family, however, said in a statement she had fallen down in the garden.
After returning home, a family member was quoted by local media as saying she died of a “heart attack”.
A short video recorded outside of her hospital room during her stay was circulated on social media, where sounds of loud screams in the background were attributed to Gharib, as she was reportedly being beaten by family members.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the authenticity of the footage.
An autopsy report was ordered by the Bethlehem district prosecutor, but the results are yet to be announced.
Gharib’s death sparked outcry among women’s rights activists who have staged sit-ins in Bethlehem and Ramallah, calling for an end to domestic violence and abuse against women.
They have also demanded the introduction of laws that criminalise so-called “honour killings” and gender-based-violence.
“Enough. Stop killing women” and “there is no honour in crimes of honour”, protesters chanted on Saturday as they marched from Beit Sahour to Bethlehem.
The rallies came as a social media campaign in support of Gharib went viral, with the “Justice for Israa” and “We are all Israa” hashtags trending on social media.
Among those calling for justice was US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin.
"Isra’s death illustrates an ever-present toxic masculinity and control over women’s bodies and lives."
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) September 1, 2019
“Help get #JusticeforIsraa by exposing the truth,” Tlaib wrote in a Twitter post on Monday.