Family of Palestinian Teen Kidnapped and Burned to Death Sues Jewish Killers

Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s family seeks tougher punishment for his three Jewish murderers, say lawyers

Suha Abu Khdeir, mother of the murdered Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir, during the Supreme Court hearing on his murderers' punishment, February 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

The family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir has filed a 5.6 million shekel ($1.6 million) civil damages suit against the convicted murderers of their son. The Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem was abducted and burned to death in a gruesome murder in July 2014.

“The goal is not to make money but to add to their punishment, so that even when they are released they will know they need to pay the family they hurt so much,” says the family's lawyer.

Abu Khdeir, 16 at the time of his death, was abducted near his home in the Shoafat neighborhood by Yosef Chaim Ben-David, then 29, and two young Jewish minors related to Ben-David. Abu Khdeir was driven to the Jerusalem Forest, where he was beaten and burned alive. Israel's government has officially recognized him as a terror victim.

Ben-David was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 20 years, and one of his accomplices was also sentenced to life in prison and the other to 21 years in prison. 

The compensation the family is now demanding includes funding equivalent to Abu Khdeir’s lost lifetime earnings, as well as burial expenses, and compensation for the loss of life and for the pain and suffering caused to the family. The sum also includes punitive damages.

“Without a doubt, the amount is not adequate compensation for the totally meaningless and outrageous loss of the life of a young person,” states the lawsuit.

Abu Khdeir’s kidnapping and murder is seen as an act of revenge following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli yeshiva students during the summer of 2014. The teen's murder unleashed wave of violent riots in East Jerusalem.

Two months ago, the Supreme Court denied Ben-David’s appeal of his sentence. The court rejected Ben-David’s argument that he had been insane at the time of the crime, and also reconfirmed his sentence. The justices called Ben-David “the moving force” behind the crime, and also turned down the appeal of his accomplices, leaving their sentences in place too.