A 46-year-old woman was found dead in a section of the Jordan River in Northern Israel the day after her son, in his late 20s, murdered her because she converted from Islam to Orthodox Christianity, prosecutors say.
The suspect, Muad Hib, 27, reportedly used a rope or his hands to strangle his mother, Rasha Muklasha, until she died, police reports and court documents allege of the Aug. 5 incident.
According to The Times of Israel, the indictment alleges that Hib dug a pit, buried the body and covered the spot with rocks and dry leaves "all to obscure the body's location and make it harder to locate."
Hib was charged on Monday for premeditated murder.
In 2006, the victim was reportedly estranged from her husband and five children after she moved from Zarzir to Nof HaGalil, where she converted to Christianity.
After nearly 15 years, she reconnected with her children after her ex-husband died. However, her conversion to Christianity allegedly provoked and angered Hib, which prosecutors surmised could be the reasoning behind his intent for the killing.
Prosecutors contend the murder was planned by Hib, who met his mother near Nazareth and picked her up in his vehicle with the intent to kill her and dispose of her remains.
Authorities charge that after the son suffocated his mother to death, he searched for a place to hide her body.
While searching, Hib reportedly rammed into a police roadblock and fled from the scene. The indictment alleges that he proceeded to the Jordan River, where he hid the deceased.
The police said that Hib bumped into a second roadblock and arrested him after a short chase near Nahalal.
Both of Hib's brothers, 23 and 20, were arrested separately.
According to The Jerusalem Post, all three men were held until enough evidence could be compiled to charge the middle brother as the main perpetrator. After that, the others were released.
The police said they conducted an intensive search for Muklasha's remains using helicopters, a canine unit, cavalry and tracker units.
"The rapid work of investigators in locating the suspect, and the suspicion of a murder case, led to the launch of all Northern District forces for a rapid and extensive operation to locate the victim's body," said Northern District chief, Shimon Lavi, as quoted in a Times of Israel article in August. "[This shows] the police's full commitment to solving crime in the Arab community, using all means at our disposal."
News of the indictment comes as there has been rising crime and violence throughout Israel's Arab community. According to Haaretz, there have been 90 killings in Israel's Arab community since the start of 2021, and the vast majority of perpetrators haven't been brought to justice.
The outlet further calculates that only 23% of murders in Israel's Arab community have been solved. Some of the victims have been unlucky bystanders, known criminals or female victims of domestic violence.
The police have been accused of not doing enough to protect Israel's Arab society.
"The situation has only gotten worse," Thabet Abu Rass, co-executive director of an organization called Abraham Initiatives, which advocates for equality between Jews and Arabs, told Haaretz.
"Yes, we have seen more awareness of crime and violence, from the top down; everyone is talking about it. However, at the same time, on the ground, violent crime is accelerating and Arab society has completely lost its sense of security."
In July, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated that the rate of violence and crime in Arab Israeli communities is a "national calamity that has been neglected for many years."
"The crime occurs on a daily basis and fear rules the streets. It is the responsibility of the government to fight and deal with the phenomenon and it is a national mission."
In September, Israeli authorities reportedly began recruiting hundreds of new police officers and work with a domestic security agency to combat violence in the Arab community. The move came after several people were killed days prior.