Palestinian-American Gets Two Life Sentences for Murder of Israeli in West Bank

Military court hands down two life sentences and $820,000 in fines to Muntasir Shalabi over shooting attack that killed Yehuda Guetta and wounded two others last year

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
Soldiers at Tapuah junction bus stop after the attack last May
Soldiers at Tapuah junction bus stop after the attack last MayCredit: Moti Milrod
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

A military court handed down two life sentences and a 2.5 million-shekel fine to a Palestinian-American man on Wednesday for the murder of a 19-year-old Israeli in the West Bank last May.

The Ofer military court ordered Muntasir Shalabi to pay 1.5 million shekels (nearly $500,000) to the family of Yehuda Guetta, the 19-year-old yeshiva student who was killed in the shooting attack in May. He was also ordered to pay compensation to of Guetta's friends, both 19-year-olds who were wounded in the attack: 1 million shekels (about $320,000) to Benaya Peretz, and 20,000 shekels to Amichai Hala.

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Shalabi, a U.S. citizen, was convicted of shooting the three victims from inside his car while they were waiting at a bus stop at the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank. Shalabi was arrested by officers from the police special counterterrorism unit and the Shin Bet security service hours after the attack. Shalabi was convicted of premeditated manslaughter – the equivalent of murder in military court – and attempted murder and illegal possession of weapons.

According to his indictment Shalabi fired from close range and stopped shooting when his gun malfunctioned and fled the scene. He was accused of intending to kill Israeli soldiers or Jewish civilians and of planning the attack for a month. After preparing a will and practicing shooting, Shalabi nearly carried out the attack twice, but delayed it, the indictment said.

Military prosecutors said he hid with friends after fleeing the scene. Security officials said Shalabi most likely acted alone, and no one else was indicted for collaborating with him in the attack.

In July, the military demolished Shalabi’s house in the town of Turmus Ayya in the northern West Bank. A month earlier, the High Court of Justice denied a petition by the family of the attacker against the demolition of the house, where Shalabi’s wife and three children lived – all of whom are U.S. citizens.

In the days following the attack, residents of Turmus Ayya told Haaretz that Shalabi had spent a number of years in the United States. The U.S. Embassy in Israel condemned the demolition. Riots broke out during the demolition when some 200 Palestinians confronted security forces, throwing rocks and shooting fireworks at the troops, who used riot-control measures to disperse the crowd.

Attorney Haim Blecher of the Honenu legal aid organization, who is representing the Guetta family, said they hoped "the life of this despicable terrorist ends between prison walls, as the verdict demands."

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