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A Haifa District Court sentenced an 18-year-old from northern Israel to 12 years in jail yesterday for stabbing his stepfather, who allegedly raped the man's younger sister.

The court stated that the youth, who played an important role in his sister's life, was enraged after the girl told him of the rape. In delivering the verdict, the judge said: "Arguments must be settled by a court of law, not by the knife."

In January the teenager, who was still a high school student, was told by his younger sister that their stepfather had raped her two days previously and had sexually assaulted her several times in the past.

The teenager asked his sister to leave the house, armed himself with two kitchen knives, and stabbed his stepfather while he slept. The older man was taken to hospital but released soon afterwards.

Following the stepson's arrest, the stepfather was arrested on suspicion of sex crimes, but was released under conditions that included a restraining order banning him from the home for two weeks.

During the trial it emerged that the children's mother doubted her daughter's story. The girl's mental health deteriorated following the attack and she was eventually institutionalized.

"I imagine that after he described himself and his sister being 'abused' physically and verbally for years, that when his sister described to him how the complainant had sexually assaulted her, the accused must have felt horrible," Judge Moshe Gilad wrote in his verdict. "I am ready to believe that when the accused saw his sister feeling so vulnerable, and heard her tell of such horrible things, he was frustrated and enraged."

But he added: "We cannot allow the court to send a message that someone who stabs another in anger, rage, revenge, no matter what the reason, will not be put under lock and key."