An Israeli Bedouin man was convicted on Tuesday of the terrorist-related premeditated murder of 19-year-old soldier Ron Kukia in November 2017. Khaled Abu Judeh was also convicted of other terror-related charges and conspiring with his half-brother, Zahi Abu Judeh, whose trial is still underway.
The Be'er Sheva District Court ruled that since Abu Judeh "chose not to testify … the prosecution's version remains unchallenged." Judge Natan Zlotchover said the defendant's refusal to testify was particularly significant as the defense's main claim had been that the police and Shin Bet security service "used improper measures" against him.
Abu Judeh, from the town of Kseifa in the northern Negev, confessed to the murder, but said the original plan was to kidnap a soldier and negotiate the release of Palestinian security prisoners. The court acquitted him on the charge of attempted murder for his plans to murder other soldiers or civilians.
The half-brothers, both in their 20s, were indicted in December 2017 for Kukia's murder. Paramedics found the combat soldier from the Israeli army's Nahal infantry brigade unconscious at a bus stop near a shopping mall in the southern city of Arad, where he had been waiting, but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.
Abu Judeh admitted to being influenced by videos about about Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip, which claimed that Palestinian children were killed in bombings of the enclave. He also watched videos glorifying Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip. Abu Judeh then decided to carry out a terrorist attack on behalf of the Palestinian people and in support of Hamas, the court ruled.
Zahi Abu Judeh is on trial for attempted murder, possession of a knife, obstruction of justice and suborning a witness.
Kukia’s father, Boaz, said after the verdict was handed down that the family demanded that the terrorist be given the death penalty to deter other potential terrorists. In addition, they want to revoke Abu Judeh’s Israeli citizenship and for his home to be demolished.
Boaz Kukia said Abu Judeh's parents educated their children to hate soldiers and after the murder his mother, a Palestinian who resides in Israel illegally, helped to hide her son. Kukia said he is pushing prosecutors to indict the father for polygamy and illegal construction, and he will pursue the father for as long as he lives.
Abu Judeh, who has a background in medical technology, allegedly sought to involve his half-brother in obtaining a weapon for the attack. He apparently also told Zahi that he planned to use anesthesia materials that he would obtain at Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, where he worked, to try to drug a soldier and steal his weapon.
He was cruising around in nearby Arad on the evening of November 30, looking for a soldier. He spotted Kukia, who was alone and carrying a weapon. According to the charges, he then called Zahi to tell him that he had found a soldier with a weapon. Khaled, armed with a knife, then got out of his car and allegedly stabbed Kukia a number of times. He stole his weapon and fled, leaving the soldier to bleed to death.
The half-brothers allegedly met at their home in the northern Negev town of Kseifa, where Khaled is said to have shown Zahi the soldier’s weapon and the bloody knife he used to stab him. Khaled then allegedly dug a hole outside their family’s home and buried the weapon. After his arrest, Khaled led the Shin Bet security service to the weapon.
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