Three Israelis found guilty of Palestinian teen's murder

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Three Israelis Confess to Revenge Killing of Palestinian Teen


JERUSALEM, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Two Jewish minors were found guilty on Monday of the 2014 murder of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem, but the Israeli court held off on formally convicting a third man accused of orchestrating the crime, pending a psychological review.

Prosecutors said the three had confessed to abducting, bludgeoning, strangling and burning Mohammed Abu Khudair, 16, in revenge for the killing days earlier of three Israeli youths by Hamas militants in the occupied West Bank.

The incidents touched off a wave of bloodshed culminating in the seven-week Gaza war.

See photos of continued violence in the West Bank:

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Violence in Israel and the West Bank escalates
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Three Israelis found guilty of Palestinian teen's murder
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 13: (ISRAEL OUT) In this handout from the Israeli GPO, Ultra Orthodox ZAKA volunteers and security forces attend the scene of an attack at a bus stop in Malchei Yisrael Street on October 13, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. Multiple terror attacks have occurred in Jerusalem and central Israel leaving at least three Israelis dead and many others injured, escalating a monthlong wave of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. (Photo by Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)
Israeli Zaka volunteers carry a body following a shooting attack on a bus in an east Jerusalem Jewish settlement adjacent to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber on October 13, 2015. Two attackers opened fire on a bus while another assailant carried out a car and knife assault in Jerusalem, leaving two people dead and five wounded in two separate incidents, Israeli authorities said. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli Zaka volunteers carry the body of an Israeli victim following a Palestinian shooting attack on a bus in the east Jerusalem Jewish settlement of Armon Hanatsiv, adjacent to the Palestinian neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber, on October 13, 2015. Two Palestinian attackers opened fire on a bus while another assailant carried out a car and knife assault in Jerusalem, leaving two people dead and five wounded in two separate incidents, Israeli authorities said. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli security forces inspect the scene after a Palestinian man drove into a bus stop and carried out a stabbing attack in a Jerusalem ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood on October 13, 2015. The Jerusalem attack came after a Palestinian stabbed and wounded a passerby north of Tel Aviv before being restrained by civilians in the area. AFP PHOTO / GIL COHEN-MAGEN (Photo credit should read GIL COHEN MAGEN/AFP/Getty Images)
A masked Palestinian hurls rocks towards Israeli soldiers during clashes following the funeral of Mohammed Fares al-Jaabari on October 10, 2015, in the center of the West Bank town of Hebron. Israeli security forces have arrested approximately 400 Palestinians since the October 1 outbreak of violence in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, the Palestinian Prisoner Club said. AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER (Photo credit should read HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers detain a wounded Palestinian stone thrower after infiltrated members of the Israeli security forces shot at fellow protesters during clashes in Beit El, on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on October 7, 2015. New violence rocked Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including a stabbing in annexed east Jerusalem, even as Israel and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas took steps to ease tensions. AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI (Photo credit should read ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The verdicts, and eventual sentencing, could stoke tensions that are already high over access to a major Jerusalem mosque complex that Jews revere as vestige of their two ancient temples.

Jerusalem District Court ruled that the two underaged defendants, whose names were withheld from publication, carried out the crime. Under Israeli law, minors cannot technically be convicted before a review board endorses the verdict.

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Yosef Haim Ben-David, a West Bank settler who works as a Jerusalem optician and who confessed to leading the crime, was also found guilty. But the court deferred formal conviction over his lawyers' 11th-hour request for a psychological evaluation.

"How can the defendant, two days ago, a year and a half after the crime, bring a document claiming insanity?" the youth's father, Hussein Abu Khudair, told reporters. "It's all lies and I worry that the court will free them in the end."

Ayman Odeh, a senior lawmaker from Israel's Arab minority, said: "The state is sending a clear message of forgiveness and understanding when it comes to Jewish terror."

While adult murder convicts generally get lengthy jail terms in Israel, comparable sentences are not mandatory for minors. Court spokesmen did not immediately give dates for the defendants' review hearings or sentencing.

Israeli officials welcomed Monday's verdict as a warning against hate crimes, which have surged as repeated bouts of violence eclipse peace talks with the Palestinians deadlocked since early 2014.

"The court determined unequivocally today that the three defendants committed the barbaric crime of abducting an innocent person only because of his origin, and burning him alive," said state prosecutor Uri Korb, vowing to contest any insanity plea.

"When we try to claim that we are better than our enemies - and I think that we are better than them - we should look at this event as a mirror," he said. "As a society we will continue to fight all avengers and lynchers, as we did in this case." (Writing by Dan Williams Editing by Ori Lewis and Alison Williams)

Related: Palestinian assailant stabs Israeli citizens at Tel Aviv office building:

9 PHOTOS
Tel Aviv stabbing, West Bank attack leave 5 killed
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Three Israelis found guilty of Palestinian teen's murder
Israeli police gather at the site of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on November 19, 2015. The attack killed two people, while the Palestinian assailant was injured and arrested, Israeli police said, in the first such incident in several days. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli security forces patrol the surroundings of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on November 19, 2015. The attack killed two people, while the Palestinian assailant was injured and arrested, Israeli police said, in the first such incident in several days. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli security forces arrest a wounded Palestinian man who carried out a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on November 19, 2015. The attack killed two people, while the Palestinian assailant was injured and arrested, Israeli police said, in the first such incident in several days. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli forensic police inspect the site of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on November 19, 2015. The attack killed two people, while the Palestinian assailant was injured and arrested, Israeli police said, in the first such incident in several days. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli security forces arrest a wounded Palestinian man who carried out a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on November 19, 2015. The attack killed two people, while the Palestinian assailant was injured and arrested, Israeli police said, in the first such incident in several days. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli forensic police inspect the site of a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on November 19, 2015. The attack killed two people, while the Palestinian assailant was injured and arrested, Israeli police said, in the first such incident in several days. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli security forces evacuate a wounded Palestinian man who carried out a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv on November 19, 2015. The attack killed two people, while the Palestinian assailant was injured and arrested, Israeli police said, in the first such incident in several days. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, Nov. 19, 2015 -- Israeli police apprehend a suspected man to check whether he has connections with a stabbing attack near the attack scene in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Nov. 19, 2015. A knife-wielding Palestinian on a stabbing spree killed two Israeli men and injured another at a chapel on Tel Aviv's seafront on Thursday. Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank Dura, a village in southwest of Hebron. His name was not immediately released, but Channel 2 TV news reported he had no previous record of involvement in acts of terror. (Xinhua/JINI via Getty Images)
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