JERUSALEM - Two Israeli youths were convicted of murder in Jerusalem Monday for the revenge killing last year of a 16-year-old Palestinian boy who was burned alive in an apparent random reprisal for the slayings of three Israeli students. The deaths were part of domino-effect violence that led to a nearly two-month war in the Gaza Strip. The three-judge panel, however, delayed the verdict against the alleged ringleader, 31-year-old Yosef Haim Ben-David, whose attorney filed a last-minute petition that his client was insane and not responsible for his acts.
The decision by the court to consider the insanity claim sparked demonstrations and condemnation from Arab Israeli lawmakers and the family of the murdered teen, Mohammad Abu Khdeir, who was abducted by Jewish extremists and burned alive in a Jerusalem forest.
Police said Khdeir was targeted in revenge for the killings of three Israeli yeshiva students who were abducted and killed while hitchhiking in the West Bank. The Israeli military blames a terror cell affiliated with the Islamist militant group Hamas.
The murders of the three Israeli teens and Khdeir were links in a chain of violence that led to the Gaza war in summer 2014 between Israeli forces and Hamas, which controls Gaza.
According to figures in a U.N.-backed report issued in June, 2,251 Palestinians were killed during the hostilities, which included Hamas rockets fired into Israel and shelling into Gaza by Israeli gunners. Six Israeli civilians and 67 Israeli soldiers were killed.
During the trial, Ben-David did not take the stand and only gave mumbled answers during the proceedings. In a pretrial hearing, he shouted: "I am the Messiah!"
Many Israelis say they were appalled by the revenge killing, which was widely condemned even as it exposed Israel to accusations that it turned a blind eye toward Jewish extremism. Ben-David lived in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank and is the son an ultra-Orthodox rabbi.