Adult suspect in Abu Khdeir murder named

Jerusalem District Court says Yosef Haim Ben-David, 29, is prime suspect in killing of East Jerusalem teen

16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2, 2014, in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)
16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, a Palestinian teenager whose burned body was found Wednesday, July 2, 2014, in the Jerusalem Forest (photo credit: AFP via family handout)

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday released the name of Yosef Haim Ben-David as the primary suspect in the July 2 abduction and murder of 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir in an alleged revenge attack for the killing of three Israeli teens last month.

Ben-David, 29, is a resident of the West Bank settlement of Adam and owns an eyewear store in Jerusalem. His detention has been extended until the end of his legal proceedings.The other two suspects, both minors, have not yet been named.

Ben-David is one of three suspects indicted on July 17 for the crime. Two of the defendants were also charged with the attempted kidnapping of a seven-year-old Palestinian boy in Beit Hanina the night before the murder; attempted arson; and the torching of a Palestinian store in the West Bank village of Hizme in June.

The indictment said that the three suspects went on “a human hunt,” during which they “cruelly kidnapped and murdered the minor Muhammed Abu Khdeir simply for being an Arab.”

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein strongly condemned the “grave and shocking” crime, which was “carried out against an innocent youth on racist grounds,” and “opposes basic human morality.”

The other suspects are two 16-year-olds — one from Jerusalem, the other from Beit Shemesh. According to the indictment, Ben-David and one of the minors have a history of mental illness and are presently on medication.

Immediately after the killing, the suspects said they went to the older defendant’s home, where they “played guitar, and went to sleep.”

The three have confessed to the killing; they reenacted it in the police interrogation. They said it was meant to avenge the June 12 killing of the three Israeli teenagers — Eyal Yifrach, 19; Naftali Fraenkel, 16; and Gil-ad Shaar, 16 — who were laid to rest a day before the murder of Abu Khdeir.

They said that following the discovery of the three bodies on June 30, two of the defendants plotted to harm Arabs in retaliation. The night the bodies were found, they attempted to snatch the 7-year-old Beit Hanina child, but were fought off by the boy’s mother.

The next night, with the third defendant in tow, they drove around again to find a victim and abducted Abu Khdeir.

The indictment states the three, who were raised in Orthodox families, changed their clothes to look like secular Israelis, filled bottles with gasoline, and brought along handcuffs.

While scouting out potential victims, they spoke with various children, but decided not to abduct them and briefly considered kidnapping an adult. The three then saw Abu Khdeir sitting on the side, and approached him to determine if he was a Palestinian. They asked him for directions to Tel Aviv and Damascus Gate, and he began to respond before growing suspicious and attempting to call his friends for help. The defendants then grabbed the struggling teenager, pushed him into the car, and beat him with a tire iron.

Upon reaching the forest, the adult suspect shouted: “This is for the Fogel family!” “This is for Shalhevet Pass!” in reference to previous Israeli terror victims, while striking Abu Khdeir. He then hit him three more times for the slain Israeli teenagers.

The killing of Abu Khdeir sparked riots among Israel’s Arab population throughout the country, and drew fierce domestic and international condemnation. Seven suspects were initially arrested, but four were released days later.

Marissa Newman contributed to this report

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