The Beersheba District Court on Monday sentenced a Bedouin Israeli man to a life sentence plus an additional 20 years in jail for the 2017 murder of an Israel Defense Forces soldier in a terrorist attack in the southern city of Arad.
Khaled Abu Jaudah, from an unrecognized village in southern Israel, will also pay NIS 250,000 (approximately $69,000) in compensation — the maximum amount allowed by law — for fatally stabbing Ron Kokia, a sergeant in the IDF’s Nahal Infantry Brigade, as the latter waited at a bus stop on November 30, 2017.
“Ron was a victim only because he was a Jew and an armed soldier, who was alone,” the judges wrote in their ruling. “The defendant was equipped with a knife and a car only for the purpose of carrying out the attack. The defendant conceived the idea to carry out the attack, his actions were planned in advance, carefully and coolly.”
Abu Jaudah’s half brother Zahi, who the Shin Bet said acted as an accomplice and assisted him after the attack, has been indicted for attempted murder, possession of a knife and obstruction of justice, among other charges. His trial is still underway.
Kokia’s father, Boaz, told the Ynet news site that his son’s attacker should have received the death penalty.
“I call on the police to put the father of the family on trial, he is a terrorist like his children,” Korkia further said.
Korkia has previously called for the demolition of the illegally constructed Abu Jaudah family home, and for Khaled’s father to be convicted of polygamy.
On December 1, 2017, following a large-scale manhunt in the area, the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service arrested the two Bedouin Israeli suspects and retrieved Kokia’s rifle, but details of the case were kept under a court-issued gag order that was eventually lifted.
The Shin Bet said that during Khaled’s interrogation, he “admitted to murdering the soldier and stealing [Kokia’s] gun.”
Neither of the two suspects had a history of terrorist activities, the Shin Bet said.
The security service also shed light on the convicted Abu Jaudah’s motives, saying he committed the attack “out of a desire to do something on behalf of the Palestinians, and as revenge for IDF activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The Shin Bet added that Abu Jaudah identified with various terrorist groups and “has extremist beliefs.”
During his interrogation, Abu Jaudah told investigators that his original plan was not to stab a soldier, but to kidnap one, using anesthetics that he was going to steal from Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center, where he worked.
He abandoned this plan and instead plotted to kill a soldier and steal his gun in order to use it in future terror attacks, the Shin Bet said. According to Ynet, his change of heart came about because his mother lives in the West Bank and he saw the problems faced by the Palestinians.
“Every day babies die in Gaza, and I felt that I had to do something for the Palestinian people,” Abu Jaudah reportedly told interrogators.
According to the indictment, Abu Jaudah would watch videos of IDF actions in Gaza and videos praising the Hamas terror group, which controls the coastal enclave. In one post he wrote, “May God save the land of the Muslims and make your enemies the enemies of the religion.”
Abu Jaudah bought a getaway car and saved NIS 54,000 (approximately $15,000) for when he was on the lam.
In the month preceding the attack, he and Zahi drove around Arad looking for a soldier to murder, eventually finding Kokia, whose Nahal Brigade’s home base is located just outside the city.
The soldier was waiting for a ride near a mall in the southern city at approximately 9:30 p.m. when he was attacked.
When medics arrived at the scene, they found Kokia in critical condition, unconscious and without a pulse, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service. A helicopter was summoned to rush him to hospital. Medics tried to resuscitate him in the ambulance but were forced to pronounce him dead before they reached the helicopter, one of the medics said.
After the attack, Khaled was said to have returned home and told Zahi what he had done. He showed him Kokia’s weapon and the knife covered in blood. The two hid the weapons and went out to eat pizza in Arad. They were later arrested with the help of traffic camera footage.
Judah Ari Gross and Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.