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Horrifying: Palestinians Protest After Man Murders Wife in Bethlehem Market After Divorce Hearing

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"Shame on Palestinians for killing our women"

Palestinian women hold signs in that read: "protecting women from violence is an official (authorities) and social responsibility," and "shame on us...for killing our women," during a demonstration (Photo: AP

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (The Blaze/AP) — The brutal killing of a battered wife in front of a crowd of horrified witnesses in an open-air Bethlehem market prompted angry accusations Wednesday that Palestinian police and courts ignore violence against women.

Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had her throat slashed Monday after seeking a divorce from her abusive husband of 10 years. The husband was arrested at the scene, West Bank officials said.

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The case reverberated across Palestinian society because of the brutality of the attack. However, violence against women continues to be tolerated — similar to attitudes in other parts of the Arab world — and women’s rights activists say abusive husbands are rarely punished.

Zaboun was regularly beaten by her husband, 32-year-old Shadi Abedallah, at times so severely that she had to be hospitalized, said Haula al-Azraq, who runs a West Bank counseling center where Zaboun sought help.

Even so, Abedallah was never arrested. Police only made him sign "pledges" he would stop hitting his wife, al-Azraq explained, adding that Abedallah himself is a former police officer.

Zaboun was killed after attending a hearing in her divorce case.  She was walking on the steep paths of an open-air market — not far from the Church of the Nativity, marking the traditional birthplace of Jesus — when she was attacked.

On Wednesday, several dozen brave women staged a memorial for Zaboun in the Bethlehem market alley where she was killed, holding signs and chanting, “No to violence against women.”  One photographed sign read: “Shame on us Palestinians for killing our women.”

Women have scored a number of breakthroughs in traditional Palestinian society in recent years, including gaining a greater role in public life, but tribal laws still remain strong.  Violence against women is generally viewed by police as an internal family matter, so even if a woman is able to call for help, the police are of limited value.

Though Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed a decree last year that ended a long-standing practice of treating killings within a family with leniency, Al-Azraq said violence against women appears to be on the rise.  In her opinion, the deteriorating Palestinian economy and the fact that abusers don't fear punishment is likely the cause.

Zaboun’s husband could face life in prison if convicted, a minister assured the public, but it remains to be seen whether Zaboun's case slips through the cracks, or whether there will be a fair trial.

According to the Associated Press, Zaboun was married at age 17 and has three children, ages eight, six and three.  Al-Azraq said the beatings began immediately after her wedding.

Abdel Fattah Hemayel, the district governor of Bethlehem, said the authorities did step in at some point, attempting to solve what he described as a "family dispute," confirming that the husband was asked to sign pledges to stop beating his wife.

Rabiha Diab, the women’s affairs minister in the Palestinian government, said the killing of Zaboun-- and the failure to step in at any point over the last 10 years-- are troubling.

“Every once in a while, there is a case that makes us feel worried and afraid that we are going back to square one (as women),” she said.

Diab added: “We should set an example [here] because ... he slaughtered her like a sheep.”

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