Palestinian Convicted in Murders of American and Israeli Women Near Jerusalem

Kristine Luken, an American Christian missionary, was attacked and killed last December; Zichron Ya'akov resident Netta Blatt-Sorek was found stabbed to death outside of Jerusalem in February 2010.

The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday convicted a Palestinian man of killing two women, one American and the other Israeli, in separate incidents in the hills outside of Jerusalem last year.

Kristine Luken, a 44-year-old American Christian missionary, was stabbed to death while hiking with a friend in a Jerusalem-area forest in December 2010. Prosecutors say her attackers believed Luken was Jewish.

Kifah Ghneimat, one of three members of a Jerusalem-area gang suspected in the killing, was the first to be convicted in the case. He was also convicted in the death of a Zichron Ya'akov woman Neta Blatt-Sorek, 53, whose body was found with stab wounds in February 2010 near the Beit Jamal Monastery outside Jerusalem.

Authorities say Ghneimat was the leader of a Palestinian crime ring with a long history of violence. In addition to the two murders, the gang is suspected in at least 19 other serious felonies since 1997.

He was convicted of two counts of murder, as well as causing grave bodily harm, illegally entering Israel from the West Bank, breaking and entry, burglary, weapons trafficking, car theft and three counts of attempted murder.

He is to be sentenced in November.