Israeli killer of Palestinian teen convicted of murder

Court rejects Yosef Ben David’s insanity plea, says he was aware of his actions that led to Muhammad Abu Khdeir’s death

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Yosef Haim Ben David, the third defendant in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, arrives at the Jerusalem District Court on April 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Yosef Haim Ben David, the third defendant in the murder of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, arrives at the Jerusalem District Court on April 5, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Israeli man charged in the grisly 2014 abduction and killing of Palestinian teen Muhammad Abu Khdeir was convicted of murder by the Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday.

Yosef Ben David, a 31-year-old resident of the city, is expected to receive a life sentence for the murder, which shocked the country and sparked days of Palestinian riots. The judge set his sentencing hearing for next month.

The court rejected Ben Yosef’s insanity plea, determining that he murdered Abu Khdeir for “nationalistic” motives and noting he was aware of his actions on the night of the killing. His two accomplices, who were minors at the time of the attack, were convicted of murder earlier this year and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.

“The court has found that at the time he committed the offense, the accused was not psychotic, fully understood the facts, was responsible for his actions, had no difficulty in understanding reality and had the capacity to prevent the crime,” a statement from the Justice Ministry describing the ruling said.

Hussein Abu Khdeir, the father of the murdered teen, called Tuesday for Israeli authorities to destroy his home in keeping with the policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian attackers.

“His house should be demolished just like they do for all other terrorists,” he said outside the courtroom.

“Every time I see the faces of those who burned my son, I can’t sleep at night. Such a person should not be shown any leniency, he should get a life sentence,” he said.

Abu Khdeir, 16, was kidnapped near his home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat and killed on July 1, 2014, two days after it emerged that three Israeli teens who had been abducted several weeks earlier in the West Bank were killed by their Palestinian kidnappers shortly after they were grabbed.

Muhammad Abu Khdeir, seen in a photo provided by his family. (Courtesy)
Muhammad Abu Khdeir, seen in a photo provided by his family. (Courtesy)

The other two killers — both minors — were sentenced to life in prison and 21 years, respectively. The first, aged 17, was convicted of actively helping in Abu Khdeir’s kidnap-murder. He was sentenced to life for helping to pour gasoline on the teen before he was set alight and ordered to pay NIS 35,000 in reparations.

The second, aged 16, was found guilty of helping the 17-year-old and Ben David to kill the boy, received a 21-year sentence and was ordered to pay NIS 30,000 in reparations to the Abu Khdeir family.

The stiff sentences are rare for minors. Israeli law forbids identifying minors convicted of crimes.

Relatives and friends of Muhammed Abu Khdeir, 16, carry his body to the mosque during his funerals in Shuafat in East Jerusalem on July 4, 2014 (Photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Tuesday’s sentencing came amid an ongoing crackdown on Jewish terror following last summer’s fatal torching of a Palestinian home by suspected Jewish radicals.

Israel charged Amiram Ben-Uliel and a minor over the 2015 attack in the West Bank village of Duma, in which a Palestinian toddler and his parents were killed. The sole surviving member of the family, 5-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha, remains hospitalized in Israel as he slowly recovers from severe burns.

Several extreme right-wing Israeli settlers, including alleged ringleader Meir Ettinger, have been detained without charge since the deadly attack on the Dawabsha family home.

Under administrative detention — an anti-terror measure more commonly used for Palestinian security prisoners — a detainee can be held for six months without being charged or tried. The order can be renewed indefinitely in six-month increments.

Jewish extremists are also suspected of attacking Palestinians, torching homes and cars, and vandalizing mosques and churches in the West Bank and Israel.

Legal proceedings against right-wing Jewish extremists are being closely watched at a time of renewed Israeli-Palestinian tensions. A deadly wave of Palestinian stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks targeting Israelis began last year.

Twenty-nine Israelis and four non-Israelis have been killed since October. Some 190 Palestinians have also been killed, about two-thirds of them while attacking Israelis, and the rest during clashes with troops, according to the Israeli army.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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