After 3-week manhunt, police arrest man suspected of murdering ex-wife

Police on Monday arrested a man suspected of murdering his ex-wife, ending a three-week manhunt.

Rabia Kna’aneh, 40, was detained while trying to steal a car near the northern town of Sakhnin.

He was armed with a knife and attempted to stab a police officer during his arrest, according to Hebrew media reports.

Police managed to restrain him and bring him into custody. There were no reports of injuries.

Kna’aneh had been on the run since the November 16 murder.

Police suspect that Kna’aneh deliberately crashed his car into the vehicle of his ex-wife, Wafa Kna’aneh, 37, in the northern Arab Israeli city of Arraba in mid-November, and then stabbed her to death. The two were locked in a custody battle over their children.

Kna’aneh had a history of domestic violence that previously saw him serve six months in prison, Channel 12 news reported. He later violated the terms of his release and was given another six months on probation. Another related domestic violence complaint was filed against him in October, the report said.

Screen capture from video allegedly showing passersby trying to push a man away from a woman, reportedly his ex-wife, after he stabbed her in the northern city of Arraba, November 16, 2020. (Ynet news)

Wafa, 37, was the mother of four children aged 12-18, and had lived for almost a year in a women’s shelter, due to threats from her former husband, the Walla news website reported.

According to Ynet, hours before Wafa was murdered, both she and her ex-husband appeared at the sharia court in the northern town of Sakhnin for a custody hearing, where she reportedly expressed consternation regarding the welfare authorities.

Wafa’s relatives told the outlet that the Arraba welfare authorities told the court that the children should stay with their father from Sunday to Wednesday, and with their mother only on the weekends. However, the court ultimately decided that the mother would take care of the children from Sunday to Wednesday, while the father would look after them on the weekends.

Wafa reportedly told the court that she had not seen her two older children since she left the family home around a year and a half ago.

Eyewitnesses to the stabbing said that after Kna’aneh crashed the car, the two exited their vehicles and argued over who would take care of the children. He then pulled out a knife and stabbed her.

Passersby reportedly tried to keep him away. Kna’aneh then fled the scene in his car.

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman on Monday hailed the arrest, but said, “There was no reason it should take so long, while the family lives in fear.”

“Let’s hope that this is the first step in cracking the 60% of murder cases in Arab communities that haven’t been solved. Now it’s time the legal system, which abandoned Wafa during her lifetime, must offer her justice.”

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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