A man from Gaza was charged on Monday in Haifa District Court with the murder in December of Adel Khatib, a 17-year-old Arab Israeli from the northern city of Shfaram.
The defendant, Wissam Abu Alhasana, 44 – who was in Israel without a permit at the time of the killing and worked with Khatib doing construction work – allegedly stabbed him repeatedly, buried his body and then demanded 400,000 shekels ($116,000) from the teenager’s family for information about the boy’s whereabouts, according to the indictment.
Tensions ran high on Monday in the courtroom, where security guards had to keep relatives of Khatib and away from Abu Alhasana, as they rushed in anger at the defendant. In an emotional outburst, the teen’s mother, Fatma, said that if she could she would take Alhanasa’s life as he had taken her son’s.
“I will never recover from this,” she said. “I want to hear him say why he chose my son, why he has made me suffer so much.”
Alhasana, who was arrested last month but whose identity had been subject to a gag order, has been charged with kidnapping and murder with the intent to blackmail Khatib’s family.
According to the indictment, Alhasana made contact with Khatib several days before the killing, telling the teen he had something to give him. On December 5, the day of the killing, he arranged to meet Khatib in the Ein Afiyah neighborhood of Shfaram and came to the meeting with a knife and a hoe, which he buried. After meeting up, they went to an isolated area where Alhasana killed Khatib by stabbing him 21 times, and then buried him, the charges state.
Following the killing, Alhasana allegedly placed a letter in Arabic on the windshield of a car near Khatib’s home in which he claimed that the boy was in a safe location and demanded 400,000 shekels within five days for information on his whereabouts. He also threatened to cut the boy up if the family contacted the police, the indictment alleges.
- Israeli police arrests suspect in murder of Arab teen anti-violence activist
- Amid wave of violence, teen’s killing shocks Israel's Arab community
- The Israel Police’s secret (nonviolent) weapon for quelling violence in the Arab community
The police said their investigation revealed that Alhasana had been under pressure to send money to his family in Gaza. He confessed to the crime and reenacted it, the police said, and the handwriting on the note left on the car matched Alhasana’s. Other forensic evidence was also found allegedly linking Alhasana to the killing, including messages exchanged with Khatib. Under interrogation, the defendant reportedly said he killed the teen because he had nowhere to hold him hostage.
Investigators said Alhasana had been living in Shfarm for several years using the identity of a resident of neighboring Ibilin, after entering Israel in 2015 for medical care.
Following the killing, Alhasana hid in the nearby town of Tamra, investigators said. The boy’s remains were found by police that afternoon.
Initially police arrested friends of Khatib’s on suspicion that they had been involved in an argument with him that had escalated, but the friends were later released.
Alhasana’s public defenders, Alaa Sleiman and Avraham Sofer, said they wished to study the investigative material before issuing a response to the indictment.
The case has been closely followed by residents of the area. Shfaram Mayor Ursan Yassin urged residents not to permit the killing to harm relations or “turn other laborers into suspects.”