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Al-Atrash family lawyer decries 'ridiculous' ruling

Avoiding jail time, man who fatally shot car thief gets community service

Court says Aryeh Schiff was justified in fearing for his safety during 2020 Arad incident, hadn’t meant to kill Mahmoud Al-Atrash; ‘I’m happy this is over,’ he says

Aryeh Schiff, who shot and killed a thief who broke into his car at his home in Arad, seen with supporters as he arrives for a court hearing at the Beersheba District Court, March 21, 2021. (Flash90)
Aryeh Schiff, who shot and killed a thief who broke into his car at his home in Arad, seen with supporters as he arrives for a court hearing at the Beersheba District Court, March 21, 2021. (Flash90)

A man from the southern city of Arad was spared jail time Tuesday for shooting and killing a man who was trying to steal his car a year ago.

Aryeh Schiff, 71, was sentenced by the Beersheba District Court to nine months of community service after he was found guilty of reckless homicide in July as part of a plea deal.

The court also handed Schiff a suspended sentence of nine months and ordered him to pay compensation to the victim’s family totaling NIS 10,000 ($3,200).

According to the indictment, 36-year-old Mahmoud Al-Atrash broke into a vehicle parked near the trailer where Schiff was sleeping in order to steal it. Upon hearing sounds of the break-in, Schiff got out of the trailer and shot at the vehicle with Al-Atrash inside, prosecutors said.

Al-Atrash was taken to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center, where medical staff pronounced his death.

Schiff told police that he had not aimed his weapon at the suspected burglar and did not mean to harm him.

“I’m happy this is over and I’m very sorry for the tragedy,” said Schiff after Tuesday’s hearing. “It wasn’t premeditated, I’m sorry.”

Judge Revital Yaffe Katz wrote in her ruling that while Schiff’s action “violated the sanctity of human life,” his case was unusual since he was “dragged into an event he didn’t initiate or plan.”

“The defendant stood alone, at a late-night hour, in front of the deceased and his partners — all masked — and just the sight of them was sufficient to stoke terror and fear,” the judge wrote.

She said Schiff’s fear that the thieves were going to harm him or his wife was justified. She said his actions weren’t aimed at harming Al-Atrash, noting that he had immediately called police and medical services.

The judge also referred to Schiff as “a man of values who for many years contributed to the country in almost every way and lost his son.”

The Al-Atrash family’s lawyer Aaron Roze slammed the ruling, calling the compensation “ridiculous.”

“The sentence is extremely lenient and I hope prosecutors will appeal to the Supreme Court,” he said. “What catches the eye in the ruling is that it turns the tables: the defendant who recklessly caused the death of another person is presented as a victim, and the late victim is simply presented as a criminal.

“Even more problematic is that the court isn’t interested in what lies behind the victim: family, kids, orphans,” he added. “It is absurd that the court sets a ridiculous compensation while not being aware or noting that there are 10 orphans, all of them young minors, who don’t have a father. Dad didn’t come home because Aryeh Schiff shot him in the head.”

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