Palestinian-American gets two life sentences for deadly West Bank terror attack

Military court hands down one term to Muntasir Shalabi for murder of 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta, and another for the attempted murder of two others in 2021 shooting

Muntasir Shalabi is brought to the courtroom for a court hearing at the Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on October 5, 2021. (Flash90)
Muntasir Shalabi is brought to the courtroom for a court hearing at the Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on October 5, 2021. (Flash90)

A military court handed down two life sentences on Wednesday to Muntasir Shalabi, who killed 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta in a drive-by shooting attack at Tapuah Junction in the West Bank last year.

The Ofer Military Court gave Shalani one life sentence for the murder of Guetta, a yeshiva student in the Itamar settlement, and another for the attempted murder of Guetta’s friends who were with him at the bus stop and were injured in the attack.

The panel of judges, led by Lt. Gen. Meirav Hershkovitz-Yitzhaki, called Shalabi’s actions “cruel and coldblooded,” saying that he was motivated by a “burning hatred and a desire to murder Jews.”

The judges also noted that the attack was premeditated and Shalabi had been training for it for at least a month.

The court also fined Shalabi a total of NIS 2.5 million ($809,000).

Guetta’s family, which had pushed for a harsher sentence, said that the life term was not enough.

“Our Torah speaks of life as a supreme value, and whoever harms it deserves death,” Guetta’s father Elisha said in a statement.

Yehuda Guetta, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank. (Courtesy)

Last August, Shalabi was convicted of intentional manslaughter, several counts of attempted intentional manslaughter, and possession of a weapon and obstruction of justice.

Shalabi drove to the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on May 2, 2021, and opened fire. The shooting fatally wounded Guetta, seriously injured Benaya Peretz, 19, from Beit She’an, and lightly wounded Amichai Hala from Safed, also 19.

According to court papers, prosecutors said that Shalabi had decided to carry out an attack at the junction a month earlier, but twice put it off because he didn’t feel well.

On the day of the attack, he drove to the junction with a pistol on the passenger seat, hidden beneath a prayer mat. Pulling to a stop alongside the bus stop, he shouted “Allahu akhbar!” (Arabic for “God is great”) and opened fire, continuing to shoot until the pistol malfunctioned and jammed. He drove off as soldiers guarding the junction opened fire at him.

Though he was injured, he escaped to the West Bank town of Aqraba where he ditched the car, which was later torched by locals as soldiers arrived to seize it.

Shalabi went on the run for a number of days before officers from the Israel Police’s Special Policing Unit and IDF troops, acting on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet, raided a building in the village of Silwad, near Ramallah, and took him into custody. The arrest came an hour after Guetta succumbed to his injuries.

Friends and family mourn at the Jerusalem funeral of Yehuda Guetta, who was killed in a terror attack at Tapuah Junction in the West Bank, on May 6, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In response to the killing, the IDF demolished Shalabi’s family home in Turmus Ayya, despite protests over the fact that the Hamoked human rights organization said that for 11 months of the year, Shalabi did not live there, as he was estranged from his wife and only stayed in a separate room during an annual one-month visit. During the rest of the year, he would reside in the United States where he also had citizenship.

Hamoked had filed a petition against the demolition, noting that Shalabi suffered from mental illness, had been prescribed anti-psychotic medications and had spent time in a psychiatric facility in recent years.

The demolition was also met with pushback from the US, which condemned the action, and even went so far as to say that they would prioritize pushing Israel to end the controversial policy of demolishing the homes of terrorists.

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