The Lod District Court on Wednesday convicted Abed al-Karim Assi, an Arab Israeli man, for the murder of Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal at the Ariel Junction in the West Bank last year.
On February 5, 2018, Assi, who was 19 at the time, stabbed Ben-Gal, 29, at a bus stop outside Ariel. Assi then fled the scene, leading security forces on a month-long manhunt that ended with his arrest in the Palestinian city of Nablus.
Attorney Haim Bleicher, from the right-wing Honenu legal aid organization representing the Ben-Gal family, said he will ask for the maximum possible sentence.
“The cursed terrorist who tried to harm the basic right of the Jews to exist in our land doesn’t deserve to see the light of day any more,” Bleicher said in a statement Thursday.
The court deliberations on sentencing are to be held in two months’ time.
According to court papers, Assi, who confessed to the crime, decided to commit a terror attack and kill Jews after he had an argument with an Israel Defense Forces soldier at a junction outside Ariel.
Later on the same day, Assi purchased two 27-centimeter-long knives at a store in Nablus and returned to the same junction, where he spotted Ben-Gal at a bus stop and recognized him as Jewish by his kippa.
He then closed in on Ben-Gal and stabbed him in his chest and abdomen, continuing to pursue his victim even after the latter attempted to flee. A passing driver noticed what was happening and hit Assi with his car, prompting him to flee the scene.
Medics tried to resuscitate Ben-Gal, who was stabbed three times in the chest. He was taken to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, but succumbed to his wounds.
On March 18, after more than a month of extensive searches, Israeli security forces arrested Assi in a predawn raid in Nablus, where his father lives. Before the attack he had used his Israeli citizenship to spend time on both sides of the Green Line, including with his mother, who lives in Haifa.