An 11-year-old Palestinian boy who stabbed a guard on the Jerusalem light rail train last month was transferred to a juvenile detention center upon his release from hospital Tuesday, as the state grapples with how to handle the underage assailant.
Under current Israeli law, Ali Alkam, a 6th grader from East Jerusalem, is below the age of criminal responsibility, which is 12.
The Ministry of Welfare and Social Services ordered Alkam to the closed rehabilitation facility after obtaining a court order, the Walla news website reported.
“We won’t be able to hold him there for long, ultimately there will be no other choice but to release him,” a source familiar with the case told Walla. The source highlighted the state of limbo facing Aklam: he is too young to be defended by Israel or the Palestinians, or receive punishment.
“The state has absolutely no idea what to do with him,” he added.
Ali is the youngest assailant arrested to date in the current upsurge of Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets. While he is too young to face charges or go to a juvenile detention facility, his 14-year-old cousin, Moawiyah Alkam, who joined him on the stabbing rampage, is facing charges of attempted murder.
Ali and Moawiyah attempted to murder a security guard on Jerusalem’s light rail on November 10. Moawiyah stabbed the guard in his upper body with a knife he’d brought from home; Ali stabbed him in the head with a newly purchased pair of scissors. The guard, who was lightly-to-moderately injured in the attack, shot Ali in the stomach.
The two cousins confessed to Shin Bet interrogators that they carried out the attack in revenge for the death of their cousin who was recently killed.
“I wanted to die as a shahid [martyr] but now I understand I made a mistake and I am sorry,” Ali said told investigators in the published transcript of the interrogation. “I made a mistake. I want to be in school like any normal person. I don’t want to resist the occupation any longer.”
Moawiyah also confessed to carrying out the attack, but said he did not mean to kill anyone.
According to Israel’s penal code, offenders charged with terrorism cannot be incarcerated until the age of 14, however, a bill that would lower the minimum age of incarceration to 12, has gained traction in the Knesset as the number of juvenile attackers has risen sharply in recent months.