An Israeli court on Thursday cleared a Palestinian man who planned to carry out a shooting attack in an Israeli city after he apparently got cold feet at the last moment.
According to court documents, in September 2020 Muatez Beri walked around the central city of Rosh Ha’ayin with a loaded pistol for two hours, repeatedly considering victims before moving on, until he was nabbed by police.
Samaria Military Court judge Rani Amar rejected the prosecution’s charge of attempted murder, noting that Beri never acted on the plan and citing his cooperation with the investigation and expressions of regret.
Amar added that clearing Beri of attempted murder would also send a message to other would-be attackers that “there’s a way back, which qualifies as a defense against one of the most serious crimes in the Israeli law book.”
Beri was convicted of lesser charges, however, including carrying a weapon, trafficking in weapons, illegal entry into Israel and rock-throwing.
According to the indictment, Beri, who had been working in Rosh Ha’ayin, bought a gun for self-defense from a Jewish contractor in 2019. A year later, after his romantic partner was killed in a traffic accident, Beri decided to commit suicide by carrying out a shooting attack against Israelis and being killed in the process.
Sneaking into Rosh Ha’ayin from the West Bank via a hole in the security fence, Beri encountered a mother with her young daughter but thought twice when the girl began calling for her mom. A second potential victim in a car was saved when Beri noticed a baby in the backseat.
He later came across a group of laborers and thought about shooting one, but did not want to hurt people just trying to make a living. After two hours, he was eventually nabbed by cops who had intel on a potential attack.
The military prosecution argued that even though Beri did not carry out an attack, he had still planned to and simply had not yet found an appropriate victim.
Beri’s lawyer argued that he had actively walked back his decision to carry out the shooting. She noted that he could have fired at the cops who approached him but did not.
Unnamed security officials told Channel 12 news that the ruling in favor of Beri sent a “problematic message” and said the court had accepted “false claims” of regret.
“If he indeed regretted it, why did he not actively unload his weapon? Instead, he continued to hide it in his pants,” the officials said.
Beri’s attorney Merav Khoury welcomed Amar’s decision, agreeing it would “encourage perpetrators to stop their actions before completing the crime, and save lives.”