Lawyer for victim's family demands death penalty

ISIS-inspired Palestinian charged for murdering Israeli teen in grisly West Bank attack

Details of killing so gruesome they are not made public; Ahmed Dawabsha allegedly began discussing jihadist ideology with friends last year, decided all non-Muslims are infidels

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir, who went missing in the West Bank on April 12, 2024 and was found murdered a day later. (Courtesy)
14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir, who went missing in the West Bank on April 12, 2024 and was found murdered a day later. (Courtesy)

Military prosecutors on Thursday indicted a West Bank Palestinian man for murdering an Israeli teen in April, in a killing so gruesome its full details were not made available for publication.

Ahmed Dawabsha, 21, a resident of the West Bank town of Duma, near Ramallah, was charged with the murder of 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir, who was found dead on April 13, a day after setting out from an illegal West Bank outpost to herd sheep.

According to prosecutors, Dawabsha gained an interest in the ideology of the Islamic State terror group a year ago and began meeting up with several friends to discuss jihadism. At some point amid the discussions, he started believing all non-Muslims are infidels and decided to carry out a stabbing attack, believing he could not obtain a gun.

At the beginning of April, Dawabsha heard voices near Duma and was told by a member of the group of friends, Khattab Abd al-Bast Khattab Salauda, that it came from the West Bank outpost of Malachei Shalom. He decided to carry out the attack there, the indictment said.

Dawabsha handed Salauda a will a day before the attack. Then, on the morning of April 13, he armed himself with a 20cm knife and headed to the outpost to search for victims.

According to prosecutors, Dawabsha spotted Achimeir tending to a flock of sheep but decided to head toward three nearby buildings first. After spotting a woman and a child, Dawabsha decided that Achimeir was a more appropriate victim, and hid in some grass while waiting for him to approach.

Israeli security forces and volunteers take part in a search for missing Israeli teenager Benjamin Achimeir in the West Bank on April 13, 2024. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

When the two were a few meters apart, Dawabsha stood up and began to chase after Achimeir, saying, “I will kill you,” the indictment read. Dawabsha caught up to his victim when the latter fell over, and began to carry out the gruesome murder.

Once the victim was killed, Dawabsha headed toward Malachei Shalom to try and find more victims, but could not find anyone. Eventually, he encountered a dog that chased him off, and he returned to Duma, where he burned his clothes, prosecutors said.

Over a week later, Dawabsha was arrested in Duma by officers from the police’s Yamam counterterrorism unit after the Shin Bet and IDF led an “intelligence and operational effort in an attempt to trace the identity of the terrorist,” the three security bodies said in a joint statement in April.

Dawabsha “implicated himself” in what authorities labeled a terror attack near the outpost of Malachei Shalom during an initial interrogation, the statement claimed.

Attorney Chaim Bleicher of the right-wing legal aid group Honenu, who is representing Achimeir’s family, said in a statement Thursday that the victim had been murdered by an “ISIS terrorist who came to uproot the Jewish people from their land.”

“We must fight the enemy without any compromise, beat them and eliminate them. We demand at this point to try the terrorist before a panel of judges who have the authority to impose the death penalty. There is no place for these murderers on earth,” he said.

Israel’s penal code includes capital punishment but only for extremely rare cases. Bills to impose the death penalty on terrorists have been presented but not approved in the Knesset.

IDF troops search for missing Benjamin Achimeir in the West Bank, April 12, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Dawabsha name is fairly common in Duma and there is no known link between Ahmed Dawabsha and a Palestinian family with the same surname from Duma that was targeted in a devastating 2015 firebombing by Jewish terrorists. The attack killed parents Riham and Saad Dawabsha, along with their 18-month-old son, Ali Saad. Only the couple’s son Ahmed, who was 5 at the time, survived the terror attack, with extensive burns.

Tensions in the West Bank have remained high since October 7, when terrorists burst through the Gaza border into Israel in a Hamas-led attack, killing nearly 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seizing 251 hostages.

Since October 7, troops have arrested some 4,150 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,750 affiliated with Hamas.

According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, more than 540 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time.

During the same period, 20 Israelis, including security personnel, have been killed in Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank. Another three members of the security forces were killed in clashes with terror operatives in the West Bank.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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