Israel jails six Arabs over 2005 killing of Jewish gunman

The six Arab men argued during the trial that they had acted in self-defense

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An Israeli court jailed six Israeli Arab citizens on Thursday over the mob killing in 2005 of a Jewish gunman after he went on a deadly rampage on a bus in their town.

None of the six men from Shfaram in northern Israel had been convicted of directly causing the death of Eden Nathan-Zaada, a 19-year-old army deserter and far-right settler in the occupied West Bank. They were convicted of lesser counts along with a seventh defendant, who received a suspended prison term.

Defense lawyer Siry Khourieh had argued during the trial that it was unfair, as the men had acted in self-defense. Israeli Jews are seldom prosecuted for killing assailants at the scene of an incident, Khourieh said.

Arabs, the vast majority of them Muslim, make up around one fifth of the Jewish state’s citizenry, and inter-ethnic relations have long been strained by Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, who want occupied territories for a future state.

The Haifa District Court sentenced three of the men to 24 months behind bars and three others to 11- to 20-month terms. Scores of Shfaram residents demonstrated outside the court and chanted in support of the seven defendants.

Wearing a military uniform and Jewish skullcap, Nathan-Zaada opened fire aboard a bus in Shfaram, killing four Arabs. Twenty-two people, all but seven of them Arabs, were wounded.

Enraged townspeople then killed Nathan-Zaada at the scene as police tried to intervene.

Security officials said later the gunman had apparently hoped to trigger sectarian violence to try and derail Israel’s 2005 withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, which went ahead weeks later.

On July 29, the court convicted four of the men of attempted manslaughter, two of aggravated assault and a seventh of assault and obstruction of a police officer.

The court found that Nathan-Zaada had already been subdued, disarmed and handcuffed by police after his shooting spree when a mob set upon him, stomping and stoning him to death.

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