Palestinian Terrorist Handed Four Life Sentences for Murdering Three in Israeli Settlement

Omar al-Abed was convicted of killing three members of the Salomon family in July at Halamish

The funeral of members of the Salomon family murdered in Halamish, July 23, 2017.
\ Gil Cohen-Magen

A Palestinian man convicted of murdering three members of an Israeli family in a West Bank settlement in July, was handed four life sentences on Thursday. 

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Lt. Col. Dov Gelvua stated that the only punishment for the defendant was death. "The criminal acts by the accused were directed to harm the sanctity of life... I watched throughout the trial the defendant smiling constantly... I state that the defendant's sentence is only one... death," he wrote. 

A military court in December found Omar al-Abed, 20, guilty of three counts of deliberately causing the death (the military version of premeditated murder) of three members of the Salomon family in Halamish on July 21.

Abed was also found guilty of two counts of attempted murder, as well as other charges.

During the December hearing, the prosecution and defense presented their arguments regarding punishment, and the Salomon family was also given the opportunity to speak.

Israeli forces near the site of the attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish and assailant Omar al-Abed, July 21, 2017.

The military prosecution urged the court to give Abed four life sentences. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, however, believed Abed should face the death penalty. In a statement to the press and Twitter, Lieberman wrote that "no number of life sentences is enough punishment" for Abed, and called on the judges to "show courage and sentence the terrorist to death."

Following Abed's conviction, however, Lieberman tweeted that Israel is a normative country and, just as the justice minister cannot dictate to the prosecution and Supreme Court, he as defense minister is not entitled to direct military judges and the prosecution. He added he was speaking as chairman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and as an Israeli citizen when had called on the judges to impose the death penalty.

Although the death penalty is an option under the military code that governs Palestinians in the West Bank, the Israeli policy is not to seek it.

Abed was charged last August with deliberately causing death. The Salomons were eating Shabbat dinner when Abed, 19 at the time, entered their house armed with a knife. He killed the father, Yosef Salomon, 70, and two of his children, daughter Chaya and son Elad. The mother, Tova, was wounded in the attack.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also previously called for the death penalty for Abed, according to members of the Salomon family.

In practice, the military prosecution is the ministerial responsibility of Lieberman. But since the prosecution did not demand the death sentence for Abed, the military judges would not have the freedom to decide on that as an option, even if they wanted to. Liebermans call, in other words, was not based on any concrete legal prospect.

Abed was charged last August with deliberately causing death. The Salomons were eating Shabbat dinner when Abed, 19 at the time, entered their house armed with a knife. He killed the father, Yosef Salomon, 70, and two of his children, daughter Chaya and son Elad. The mother, Tova, was wounded in the attack.

Aside from the three murders, Abed was also accused in August of attempting to murder seven other people: Yosef's wife, Tova; Elad's wife, Michal; and Elad and Michal's five children. He was also charged with intent to commit terror attacks in the months before the Halamish murders.

According to the indictment, on July 14, Abed decided to commit the murders after an attack on the Temple Mount in which two Israeli policemen were killed by three Israeli-Arab gunmen. He infiltrated the settlement armed with a knife and chose the house because of the light and sounds of laughter emanating from it. Mid-attack, he was shot by a soldier on weekend leave who lived next door.

Members of the Salomon family had protested in court that the military prosecution had not sought the death penalty. During a condolence call to the family as they sat shivah, they said Netanyahu had told them the death penalty is anchored in law.