Palestinian woman's death was 'murder': Prosecutor

Palestinian women protest in support of women’s rights outside the prime minister’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah in this Sept. 2, 2019 file photo. AFP

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian woman who died in suspicious circumstances, sparking claims she was the victim of an "honor killing", had been beaten to death, the West Bank's chief prosecutor said on Thursday.

Attorney General Akram Al-Khatib said three members of 21-year-old Israa Ghrayeb's family had been charged with her murder, which sparked a wave of anger online and protests for women's rights outside the office of prime minister Mohammed Shtayyeh.

The family has previously insisted Ghrayeb, from Beit Sahour near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, had a stroke before her death in a nearby hospital on Aug. 22.

Khatib said in a statement that she had died after suffering "severe respiratory failure" due to complications from multiple injuries caused by "torture and abuse".

He told journalists in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah that claims by one of the accused that Ghrayeb had fallen from a balcony was a fabrication intended to "mislead the investigation".

Ghrayeb was admitted to hospital in early August following an earlier round of domestic violence that caused multiple injuries, he said, adding that the police had not been informed at the time.

Local media have published unconfirmed reports that she was killed by her family after posting on social media a picture with a potential suitor — despite the family having agreed to their meeting.

Shortly after her death, the hashtag "We are all Israa Ghrayeb" trended on Palestinian social media, along with accusations of an honor crime.

Demonstrators rallied in Ramallah amid demands that the government enact a draft 2004 law which was intended to protect women from domestic violence but has remained under consideration for years.

The Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counseling, a Palestinian NGO documenting abuses in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said there were 23 cases of what it called femicide in 2018, and 18 so far in 2019.

The term is defined as the killing of women because they are female, though it can also include suicide in cases of bullying. — AFP