Palestinians carry the body of murdered teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir through Jerusalem on Friday | Photo by Lazar Simeonov
Palestinians carry the body of murdered teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir through Jerusalem on Friday | Photo by Lazar Simeonov“We said 'they took three of ours, let’s take one of theirs,’ and we decided to pick someone up, kidnap him, beat him within an inch of his life and discard of him,” 29-year-old Yosef Haim Ben-David told police in a report released on last week.
Ben-David, who is accused of murdering 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir on 2 July in Jerusalem, confirmed in his chilling testimony that the brutal homicide was indeed rooted in revenge for the three Israeli settler teens, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, abducted and killed in June.
“We were hot-headed and angry and we determined to burn something of the Arabs,” Ben-David told police in his investigation, saying watching the funerals of the Israeli teens on July 1 had sparked the decision.
Ben-David, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Adam, is believed to have been the driving force behind the horrific act. The two other suspects are 16 years old — one from Jerusalem, the other from Beit Shemesh.
The search for a victim
A day before the murder, the three made their first attempt at an abduction, attacking a seven-year-old boy and his mother as they strolled down the street in East Jerusalem with a baby carriage.
“We decided to beat her up,” Ben-David said. One of his friends grabbed the child and choked him, then punched his mother in the face. The three then ran away, but decided to make another attempt the next evening.
According to the police report, the three suspects first spotted Abu Khdeir sitting alone around 3:45 am on the morning of 2 July. The charge sheet states that two of the accused got out of their car and asked the teen for directions to ensure that he was an Arab.
“He didn't really answer and didn't speak Hebrew,” Ben-David recalled.
“At that moment I saw that A. had given the boy a slap and Y. covered his mouth so he couldn't scream,” Ben-David said, referring to the two minors who cannot be named. “A. entered the car first and he caught the boy's hands, Y. shut him up and forced him into the car, the boy tried to go wild and put out his leg, so that we could not close the door.”
“In order to get him into the car, Y. took his hand from Abu Khdeir's mouth, allowing him to call out his final words, “Allahu Akbar”,” Ben-David stated. Abu Khdeir was then pushed into the car, and Ben-David locked the doors. At that point, a vehicle arrived at the scene and the driver called out to them. They drove away.
“At that moment I did not believe it was happening really, at this point Y. was choking the boy, and I shouted to him, “finish it, finish it. Kill him”,” he testified.
“This is for Eyal, and this is for Naftali and this is for... I don’t remember the third one’s name, maybe Gil-ad.”
With Abu Khdeir unconscious in the car, Ben-David and the other two suspects then decided to drive to the Jerusalem Forest “to get rid of him.”
After pulling over and turning off the lights, an unconscious Abu Khdeir was pulled out of the car and repeatedly struck around the head with a crowbar.
I took a lighter, I set the boy alight.
According to Ben-David, he and one of the minors then poured gasoline over Abu Khdeir, who according to a coroner’s report was likely still alive at the time. “I kicked the guy three times in the legs, and said while I kicked, 'This is for Eyal, and this is for Naftali and this is for — I don’t remember the third one’s name, maybe Gil-ad.”
Ben-David continued, “I took a lighter, I set the boy alight.”
“We are Jews, we have a heart”
In reply to the question of whether they were planning to commit murder before they set out, Ben-David contradicted himself, claiming in parts of his testimony that he had only sought to beat someone and release him, and only after kidnapping Abu Khdeir did he decide to kill him.
In another testimony, however, he admitted that they had “planned to hurt him, that means kill ... torture him and kill him.” When asked what he meant by “torture,” he replied: “So the victim would know that he was going to die as a sacrifice for the murdered Jews”.
Ben-David detailed his intent to set someone alight, and recalled filling the bottles in his testimony.“We said we would take revenge on the Arabs and go and burn one of theirs, in fact I knew before then that I was going to burn (someone), and I took three empty bottles from the house, we found two more, and went to the Hizma gas station, where I filled five 1.5 litre coke bottles with fuel.”
The main suspect said the three later spoke about the murder and regretted their actions. “We’re not like the sons of Ishmael [meaning Arabs]… We’re Jews. We have a heart.
Ben-David was told on Wednesday that he would remain in custody until the end of the trial, while the remand of the other two defendants was extended for a further week. His lawyers have sought to declare him temporarily insane.