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Israeli court sentences Jewish gang leader to life for killing Palestinian teenager

An Israeli court has given a life sentence to the leader of a Jewish gang which kidnapped, beat and burned alive a Palestinian teenager in 2014. It is unlikely to do much to ease tensions on either side of the conflict.

Yosef Haim Ben-David (photo center) was sentenced to life for killing 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, and also given 20 years for other crimes. He will also have to pay 150,000 shekels (34,000 euros) to Abu Khdeir's family.

The court hearing went ahead with tensions once again high in Israel. Police said Tuesday they had arrested a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem's Old City suspected of stabbing a Jewish man there late Monday.

Jerusalem's Old City

Jerusalem's Old City

Since October 1, 203 Palestinians and 28 Israelis have been killed in an ongoing wave of violence.

Abu Khdeir's father, speaking before the verdict, said no punishment would be enough. "Whatever they decide, our wounds will not heal, the boy will not come back," he said.

Too late for sorry

The state prosecutor said the damage the 31-year old had caused Israel and the family of the Palestinian teen was "irreparable."

Ben-David had earlier told the court; "I am sorry for the family. This is not me. I wasn't in control," he said.

After the verdict was read out, angry members of Abu Khdeir's family cursed Ben-David as he was taken from court.

State prosecutor Uri Korb had demanded that Ben-David be given life for killing Abu Khdeir, as well as 20 years for his kidnapping and an additional 15 years for other crimes, including the attempted kidnapping of a child.

"This is an evil and cruel man who does not represent our civilised society," Korb said at a hearing where Ben-David was due to be sentenced later on Tuesday.

Aftermath of a bus explosion in Jerusalem in April

Aftermath of a bus explosion in Jerusalem in April

Fit for trial

Last November, a Jerusalem court found Ben-David guilty of leading the murder of Abu Khdeir. The attack was part of a spiral of violence in the run-up to the seven-week 2014 Gaza war between Israel and Hamas.

Ben-David's lawyers submitted last-minute documents that claimed he suffered from mental illness, and his conviction was put on hold while the court decided on his sanity plea. After receiving psychological assessments, the court ruled that he had been fit to stand trial.

In February, a court sentenced Ben-David's two young Israeli accomplices to life and 21 years in prison for the killing.

A rally in Jerusalem in June 2014 calling for an end to violence

In June 2014, Israelis called for an end to violence in the wake of Mohammed Abu Khdeir's murder

Horrific murder

Abu Khdeir was kidnapped

from Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and beaten. His burned body was found in a forest in the western part of the city hours after his abduction. A forensic report showed smoke in his lungs, indicating he was alive when set alight.

Israeli authorities said the suspects had decided to kill an Arab and equipped themselves with cables, petrol and other materials before randomly choosing Abu Khdeir.

jbh/jm (AFP, AP)

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