JERUSALEM—An Israeli court on Thursday sentenced two Israelis in the 2014 murder of a 16-year-old Palestinian, sending one to life in prison for a crime that sparked deep soul-searching in Israel and was part of a series of events that led to the Gaza war later that year.
The court sentenced a second Israeli, believed to have had a lesser role in the crime, to 21 years in prison. Another Israeli is awaiting a verdict following a psychological examination.
“The sentence imposed on the defendants reflects what we asked for and the barbaric and atrocious act,” said Ori Korb, the state prosecutor. He said the murder marked a “moral nadir.”
The Israelis sentenced Thursday snatched Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir from an east Jerusalem neighborhood in July 2014, driving him to a Jerusalem forest where he was burned to death. The murder was carried out in revenge for the abduction and killing earlier that summer of three Israeli teens by Palestinians said by Israel to have been Hamas operatives.
In response to the abduction, Israel rounded up Hamas members in the West Bank, sparking a barrage of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Days after the Abu Khdeir murder, Israel began airstrikes in Gaza in an attempt to quell the rockets, resulting in a 50-day war that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.
Hussein Abu Khdeir, Mohammed’s father, told Israeli Radio that the family planned to appeal the shorter sentence to the Israeli Supreme Court.
Abu Khdeir’s murder was roundly condemned across the Israeli political spectrum and shocked Israelis. A year later, suspected Jewish extremists torched the West Bank home of a Palestinian family, killing three of its members, including a toddler, and wounding a 4-year-old boy, who is still receiving treatment in an Israeli hospital.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have continued to rise since, with a nearly five-month long wave of violence now roiling the region. The violence has killed 27 Israelis and 154 Palestinians; of those Israel says 109 were attackers and the rest killed in clashes with security forces.
Israel says the violence has been fueled by a Palestinian campaign of lies and incitement. The Palestinians say it is rooted in frustrations stemming from nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation.
The Israeli military on Thursday sealed off the home village of the three Palestinian men who staged a deadly attack in Jerusalem and carried out a number of arrests there.
Citing “situation assessments,” the military said no one can exit or enter the village of Kabatiya in the northern West Bank until further notice. Minor clashes broke out in the area between Israeli troops and rock-throwing Palestinian youth.
Such internal closures were common during the second Palestinian uprising a decade ago but have been rarely used in recent years.
Wednesday’s attack with automatic weapons, knives and explosive devices killed a 19-year-old police officer and wounded another in one of the most brazen attacks of the current round of violence roiling the region. The three Palestinians, in their early 20s, were shot and killed by police.
“This is a prolonged battle. Islamic terror is sweeping across the whole world and inciting millions,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to a Jerusalem hospital with troops wounded in the attacks. “We are in this turmoil. It doesn’t skip us but we battle it fiercely and will continue to do so.”
In the latest violence, police said two 13-year-old Arab girls stabbed and lightly wounded a security guard at a bus station in the mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city of Ramle on Thursday. A photo from the scene shared by police showed two kitchen knives on the ground beside a calculator, pens and other school supplies. The girls, who are Israeli citizens, were arrested at the scene, police said.
Israel has deployed a series of measures in a bid to crack down on the violence, including sending troops to secure its cities, expanding police powers and toughening punishments for attackers.
Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said on Thursday he would not extend the residency rights of the father of an Arab citizen of Israel who carried out an attack in October, annulling his access to social security. Deri said the step was meant to “cause terrorists to understand that their actions will have tough implications also on their family members.”
The Interior Ministry said its decision was also based on the father violating an agreement to not communicate with family members of his whom Israel says are militants.