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Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday sentenced a Jewish settler to four consecutive life sentences plus an additional 12 years in prison for murdering four Palestinian men.

Asher Weisgan was convicted on September 11 of murdering four Arab workmen and wounding a fifth at a factory in the West Bank settlement of Shilo where they all worked, the day before the implementation of the Gaza disengagement plan in August 2005.

At the end of the work day at the factory, Weisgan gave four Arab workmen a ride in his car, snatched an M-16 assault rifle from the guard and used it to shoot his four passengers, killing three of them and wounding the fourth. Then he ran toward the factory and shot another workman. He then turned himself in to the security officer who arrived on the scene.

The victims of the terror attack were Mohammed Mansour, 48; Bassem Tuwafshe, 30; Khalil Alulwil, 42; and Osama Tuwafshe, 33.

Weisgan, a settler from Shvut Rachel, said his objective had been to prevent the disengagement from proceeding.

The court also ruled Wednesday that Weisgan must pay more than one million shekels in compensation to the families of his Palestinian victims. He is obligated to pay NIS 228,000 to each of the families of the murder victims and another NIS 100,000 to the man he wounded.

During the sentencing hearing, the judges debated whether to sentence Weisgan for four separate counts of murder - i.e.: four consecutive life sentences - or for one act of murder that claimed the lives of four victims. The judges decided that sentencing for just one count of murder would impinge upon the deterrent effect of the sentence.

"Every one of the victims had a name and an identity... They were the immediate victims of the convicted man's actions and he must be punished for the murders of each and every one of them," the judges ruled.

Weisgan claimed at his trial that he had "caused the death of innocents in order to thereby prevent harsh decrees and disasters that would be imposed on the people of Israel from heaven as a result of the disengagement being implemented."

His lawyer argued that Weisgan is exempt from criminal culpability because he acted in "necessary defense" - "He wanted to save the people of Israel from expected calamities through the act of murder, and should therefore be acquitted." The judges rejected the argument.

In their conviction, judges Orit Efaal-Gabay, Aharon Farkash and Moshe Ravid wrote, "Even if the accused thought, and we do not believe he thought so, that his actions would be welcome in God's eyes, they are not worthy in man's eyes."