Be'er Sheva Court Sentences Two Men to Life for Killing Bystander in Botched Mob Hit

Sahked Shalhov was 16 when she was killed by Israel Ganon and Michel Jeano in Ashkelon in 2003; the pair had set out with the intent to kill a reputed local mobster.

A Be'er Sheva district court sentenced two men who were convicted of the murder of a 16-year-old girl to life imprisonment plus an additional 15 years on Tuesday.

Israel Ganon and Michel Jeano killed Shaked Shalhov in a drive-by shooting in Ashkelon in July 2003. They set out with the intention of killing another person, reputed to be local mobster Shalom Dumrani, and ended up killing Shalhov, an innocent passerby.

The two men were each sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for the crime of conspiring to Dumrani and were convicted of life sentences for killing Shalhov. The men were also fined 258,000 NIS each.

Shalhov was murdered in Ashkelon while riding in a car with two friends. Gunfire from an overtaking car killed Shalhov and injured her two friends. The incident shocked the public and the police as Shalhov was the first innocent bystander to be killed in underworld warfare.

At the end of an investigation into the shooting, police concluded that Ganon and Jano were the gunmen and intended to kill members of a rival gang, as part of Ashkelon gang wars for control over illegal sand-mining in the area. The two intended victims were indeed in the car shortly before Shalhov entered it.

Defense lawyer Avi Himi said, "I humbly accept the judgment. We must remember that these are the same judges that found the defendants innocent two years ago. This case will enter the national pantheon as one in which there will also remain doubt. We are now considering appealing to the High Court."

Shalhov's father said, "We feel very bad today, there is a slight upliftment diluted by a horrible sadness. This case should have been settled long ago and not take seven and a half years to complete. It is not right, not logical, not clear by any measure."

"All we asked for was minimal justice," added Shalhov. "I have been running around from hearing to hearing for seven years. I want to go on with my life, but it keeps coming back to me."

A heated argument broke out in the halls of the courthouse between the families of the perpetrators and the family of the victim. The mother of one of the convicted killers said that her son was innocent and that he had been wronged.

Six years after Shalhov was killed, the Be'er Sheva District Court acquitted Ganon and Jeano of her murder.

The judges ruled that the evidence did not prove beyond all doubt that the two men were connected to the murder.

The High Court of Justice then overruled the acquittal. The main issue of contention in the appeal consisted of the interrogation of Yaron Senker, the central witness in the case.

Senker gave testimony accusing Jeano and Ganon of the crimes, but when it came time to testify in court, he was silent, refusing to answer questions or reiterate his earlier claims.