Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s Death Set Off A Violent Conflict — Were His Killers Caught?

Mohammed Abu Khdeir's brutal kidnapping and murder is the focus of HBO's new show, "Our Boys."

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt
Yosef Ben-David

Mohammed Abu Khdeir, then only 16 years old, was brutally killed in the summer of 2014 after being abducted in his East Jerusalem neighborhood by three Israeli settlers seeking revenge for the murder of three Jewish teenagers. The two horrific crimes would have global ramifications as they stoked tensions between Israel and Palestine, leading to a bloody conflict, as depicted in HBO's new mini-series "Our Boys." 

Before Abu Khdeir’s abduction, three Jewish Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered by members of an extremist Palestinian group, fueling hostility between the Israelis and Palestinians, two communities already at odds. In the wake of the death of the three boys, some called for revenge, and early on the morning of July 2, Abu Khdeir was spirited away while on his way to a nearby mosque. His badly burned body was found abandoned in a forest in Jerusalem hours later, with reports indicating that he had been brutally beaten and burned alive.

While six people were initially arrested in relation to Abu Khdeir’s death, three were ultimately convicted of the vicious crime: Yosef Haim Ben-David and two minors whose identities have been kept confidential, in accordance with the law regarding underage offenders.

Before his arrest, Ben-David owned an eyeglass store in Jerusalem, according to The New York Times. The two minors involved in the crime were both his nephews; one attended a yeshiva, or Jewish school, while the other, who dropped out of school, worked at a toy store, the outlet reports.

According to authorities, Ben-David admitted during police interviews that he intentionally sought out an Arab person to abduct and kill as revenge for the murder of the three Israeli teens, according to the Israeli National News.

Ben-David was convicted and sentenced in 2016 to life in prison for the murder, as well as an additional 20 years for additional charges that included kidnapping, CNN reports. He was also hit with thousands of dollars in fines: A court ordered him to pay around $40,000 to Abu Khdeir’s family, as well as around $5,000 to the family of a young Palestinian boy he attempted to kidnap the night before abducting Abu Khdeir.

After he was sentenced, Ben-David said in court that he would like the forgiveness of Abu Khdeir’s family, The Times of Israel reports.

“I request forgiveness from the family for what happened; it wasn’t under my control,” he said. “That’s not my character and I am not that kind of man.”

Ben-David previously had his conviction suspended after claiming insanity, which prompted a psychological evaluation, according to Haaretz. However, his insanity plea was ultimately rejected, leading to his sentencing, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Of the two minors, one, who was 17 at the time of sentencing in 2015, was given life in prison for helping douse Abu Khdeir in gasoline before he was set on fire, according to another report from The Times of Israel. He was also given another three years, and ordered to pay around $9,000 in reparations.

The second teen, who was 16 when sentenced, was given 21 years behind bars and ordered to pay reparations — around $8,500 — to Abu Khdeir's family as well, the outlet reports.

After the trio’s sentencing, Abu Khdeir’s father, Hussein Abu Khdeir, reiterated his desire for justice for his son, and shared the family’s concern that Ben-David's sentence would not stick, according to Newsweek.

“We want the sentence to be more,” he said, via a translator. “We are afraid that in five years they will give him mercy and they will reduce the sentence that he has. It won't be a life sentence, it will be less than that and he will get out.”

Ben-David appealed his conviction, again claiming insanity, but the Israeli Supreme Court rejected his request in 2018, The Jerusalem Post reports. The two minors claimed in their appeal that they were unaware of Ben-David’s intentions to kill their captive, but the court rejected those claims as well.

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