An Israeli court on Wednesday acquitted a Jewish farmer from the Negev who shot and killed a Bedouin thief who trespassed onto his property.

The farmer, Shai Dromi, was convicted of lesser charges of gun possession and use of a firearm without a license.

Two years ago, Dromi spotted two thieves wandering around his farm. According to the indictment, Dromi became suspicious after he heard his dog barking. He then looked around and searched for a flashlight. When he did not find anything, he returned to his room and took an unlicensed loaded gun.

His suspicion further grew when he spotted scissors on the fence sheep pen, and so he hid behind a nearby shed. At that time two thieves, Khaled al-Atrash and Ayoub al-Hawashleh, were wandering around the farm area.

Dromi shot towards the two, and they started to flee. Dromi nonetheless continued to shoot, firing 6 bullets. Al-Atrash was hurt in his femoral artery, and later died of his wounds. Al-Hawashleh was shot three times in his back and was placed in intensive care.

Many farmers from the Negev were on hand at the Be'er Sheva courthouse to show their support for Dromi. Bedouin activists, on the other hand, claimed that the farmer should have been tried for murder.

"[Dromi] decided to take the law into his own hands and turn the Negev into the wild west," a Bedouin protester said.

The court's acquittal on the more serious manslaughter charge touched off a deluge of criticism from Arab lawmakers and the family of the dead Bedouin.

"Under the circumstances, there was no place to acquit Dromi and the fact is that one of the judges on the panel convicted him," said Ido Porat, the lawyer representing the family of al-Atrash. "It seems to me that it was easy for the judges to acquit Dromi because we are dealing with a man who really is the salt of the earth, and on the other hand we have a dead man who was a criminal."

"One may think that giving a license to kill an Arab is the domain of rightist politicians and what is referred to as the security forces," MK Mohammed Barakeh, the head of the Hadash party, said. "After the Dromi verdict, it appears that the license to kill is also issued by the justice system."

"The significance of the verdict is that the wild west has been relocated to our neck of the woods," Barakeh said. "Every cowboy is a judge and an executioner. In this instance, he is also the executioner. In order to deal with criminals, we have police and the trial process, not assorted gunslingers."