The Supreme Court rejected the appeals of three Jewish extremists convicted of brutally murdering an East Jerusalem teenager in 2014, upholding their convictions and prison sentences and saying they had “emerged from a dark tunnel of racism, ignorance and hate.”
Thursday’s decision upholds life sentences for two of the killers and a 21-year jail term for the third over the chilling attack, which was part of a spiral of violence ahead of the 2014 Gaza war, known by Israelis as Operation Protective Edge.
Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, was abducted and killed in East Jerusalem on July 1, 2014, by three attackers — ringleader Yosef Haim Ben David and his two nephews, who have not been named because they were minors at the time. An autopsy found that Abu Khdeir had been beaten and then burned alive in a forest outside Jerusalem.
Israel’s top court rejected Ben David’s claim of insanity and the two minors’ argument that they had had no intention to kill and had played a minor role in the gruesome murder.
“On the night between July 1 and July 2, 2014, three figures emerged from a dark tunnel of racism, ignorance and hate,” the court wrote in its decision. “They are the three appellants before us — an adult and his two nephews.”
The judges called the murder “a ‘strategic terror attack’ that ignited a wildfire in the territories in general and specifically in East Jerusalem.
“All three made a decision to cause death while committing the act, in a spontaneous partnership,” the court added. “The acts they carried out have turned into the Abu Khdeir affair, and exceeded the boundaries of a regular criminal case. The murder calls profound self-examination from top to bottom in Israeli society as to dealing with the phenomenon of racism and its metastases.”
Abu Khdeir’s father welcomed the court’s decision, but again called for the assailants’ homes to be demolished as Israel routinely does in the case of Palestinian attackers.
“These people are like Nazis,” Hussein Abu Khdeir told journalists outside the courtroom after the decision was announced.
The Jerusalem District Court sentenced the three in 2016. One of the minors, who had been aged 17 at the time of the attack, was convicted of actively helping Ben David in the kidnapping and murder. He was sentenced to life for helping to pour gasoline on the teen before he was set alight.
The second, who had been 16, was found guilty of helping the 17-year-old and Ben David kill the boy.
They said they had killed Abu Khdeir as revenge over the killing the previous month of three Israeli teenagers by Hamas terrorists in the West Bank, an episode that was one of the main catalysts of the war that summer between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.