An Israeli military court on Sunday sentenced a Palestinian man to life in prison plus eight months for murdering an Israeli soldier in the West Bank last year, with the judge calling his worldview a “murderous ideology.”
Islam Yousef Abu Hamid — who was convicted in April — was also ordered to pay the victim’s family NIS 258,000 ($72,900) over the killing of Ronen Lubarsky, in a ruling slammed as an “embarrassment” by the victim’s family.
Lubarsky, a special forces member, was struck in the head by a stone during an arrest operation in the West Bank on May 24, 2018.
The 20-year-old Israeli sergeant — promoted posthumously to staff sergeant — died of his injuries two days later.
The stone had been thrown at him during an IDF operation to arrest Palestinians in the Al-Amari refugee camp near Ramallah. The camp, which is home to about 15,000 Palestinians, is often the scene of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians.
The object that struck him was a heavy block of granite dropped from a window on the third floor of a building.
Lubarsky’s family, as well as some politicians, decried the ruling and called for the murderer to face the death penalty.
“A shame and an embarrassment for the Israeli justice system,” his father, Vladimir, said after the ruling. “Today we received further proof that it is very worthwhile to murder Israelis. I am infuriated.”
Ronen’s brother, Arik, said he felt “deep disappointment with the justice system. Israeli citizens should know terrorists go to summer camp in jail. A life sentence no longer scares the terrorists; therefore the state should change its attitude to terror.”
The family had demanded compensation of some NIS 5 million ($1.4 million) — the estimated sum of money to be paid to Abu Hamid during his time in jail by the Palestinian Authority, which has a policy of paying monthly stipends to Palestinians jailed or families of those killed by Israel, even if they had committed attacks.
That demand was rejected and the amount ordered to be paid was much lower — another decision slammed by the Lubarsky family.
“The demand for compensation was to deny him his salary from the PA. The court rejected that, and it doesn’t respect us,” said the family’s lawyer, Morris Hirsch. “What is happening here is an embarrassment.”
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman, a longtime proponent of a law handing terrorists the death sentence, said capital punishment was “the right and just punishment for the murder which was meticulously planned by the contemptible terrorist. It is a pity that Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu for four years has been torpedoing our demand to legislate the death penalty for terrorists law.”
Liberman said Abu Hamid would “go to prison in Israel and get great conditions, and his family will get a stipend from the PA. If that’s not enough, he’ll go to jail knowing he could be freed in the first prisoner swap deal.”
Liberman has been clashing with Netanyahu for months after refusing to join his coalition following the April Knesset elections, a move that led the premier to call new elections in September.
There has been widespread criticism on the right wing of past prisoner swap deals that saw hundreds or even thousands of convicted terrorists released in exchange for a single or several Israelis, most recently a 2011 deal reached by Netanyahu in which some 1,000 Palestinians were let loose in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
The Israeli army destroyed the family home of Abu Hamid in Ramallah on December 15.
Israel has a policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians it says are behind deadly attacks against Israelis, saying it acts as a deterrent. Critics denounce it as a form of collective punishment that makes families homeless and can provoke further violence.
AFP contributed to this report.