An Israeli court found two Jewish defendants on Thursday, guilty for a revenge murder of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem that contributed to inducing the 2014 Gaza war.
The court sentenced one of the Jewish teenagers for life and the other for 21 years of jail term, but held off on formally convicting a third man pending a psychological review.
The two 17 and 16-year-old defendants, whose names were withheld from publication because of their age, and an adult ringleader, pleaded guilty in November for abducting, bludgeoning, strangling and burning 16-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khudair.
The accused had confessed, describing the July 2, 2014 murder a revenge for the killing days earlier of three Israelis by Hamas militias, prosecutors reported.
The incidents led to escalated tensions and a seven-week Israeli offensive against the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which began on July 8.
Today, tensions are rising anew, after five months of a wave of Palestinian street attacks against Israelis, driven in part by stalled peace talks and Muslim anger at the Jewish intrusion into a contested Jerusalem shrine.
The adult defendant in the Abu Khudair case, Yosef Haim Ben-David, filed an insanity plea that has held up his formal conviction and sentencing. The court scheduled reviewing his psychological competence for next week.
Abu Khudair’s father, Hussein, told reporters at Jerusalem District Court that the family would appeal to the Supreme Court seeking the youngest a life sentence for the younger defendant as well.
“If there is no apartheid or racism (in Israel), you will have to do this,” Abu Khudair said, condemning authorities of going easy on the defendant because he is a Jew, not an Arab.
The state had sought life prison terms for both underaged defendants, but voiced satisfaction with Thursday’s sentencing.
“This is a still a grave punishment,” prosecutor Uri Korb told reporters, adding that the minor who received the 21-year term had helped with the abduction and beating of Abu Khudair but had not taken part in finishing off the youth.
“I hope that the message will be relayed that actions of this kind are revolting and that we as a society will not accept them,” Korb said.
He added that the state hoped to put down Ben-David’s insanity plea, see him sentenced to life behind bars and “bring closure of this in the near future”.
Lawyers for the Israeli defendants did not immediately comment on their sentences. In Israel, life imprisonment is often reduced to 25 years’ term, with some convicts offered parole for good behavior after serving two-thirds of their sentence.