‘40 months’ jailtime? He should have gotten 15 years,’ says IDF soldier attacked by terrorist

In a plea bargain, a Palestinian who attacked and tried to steal a soldier’s weapon will likely be treated like a petty thief, outraging the victim.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a plea bargain deal presented in Israeli military court last week, a Palestinian who attacked an IDF soldier at a bus stop during last year’s Operation Guardian of the Walls may be sentenced to only a few years in prison, outraging the victim, Hebrew-language Ynet and Channel 14 reported Sunday.

Yossi Amar, a sergeant in the prestigious Kfir infantry brigade, has since completed his military service but attended the court session in which the prosecutor offered the deal for the judges’ consideration: Amr al Khatib would get 40 months’ imprisonment and pay NIS 8,000 in compensation to Amar for having injured him lightly.

Amar angrily rejected the proposal.

“In addition to the crime of attempting to steal a weapon, he should have been charged and convicted of attempted murder as a terror incident in every way,” he said. “Instead, they converted the main charge to attempted robbery, as if it were a criminal act. The terrorist should have been sent to prison for 15 years, and instead he will be free in a year and a half after deducting a third [for good behavior], and I’ll be able to see him again on the street.”

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Amar said that the investigation after his arrest revealed that al Khatib had a nationalist motivation for the attack. Although the soldier merely suffered bloody scratches and sprained fingers, he told the judges at the hearing that upon his release from the army, he was downgraded as being 71% disabled and must now pay significant fees for the medical procedures he is still undergoing.

“It was a life or death battle with him,” he told the judges. “To this day, it is difficult for me mentally. I have both physical and psychological scars, and so I feel abandoned. As one who served the country in Judea and Samaria, contributed his time in Shechem (Nablus) and Gush Etzion and prevented a terrible terror attack with his own body, I feel like they are cheapening what I did.”

The 27-year-old Al-Khatib, who hails from the Hizme village near Jerusalem, expressed remorse at the hearing.

“I was young and unaware at the time; it was [a] momentary and spontaneous [act],” he said. “My mother is sick and I need to help her. I am sorry for what happened and ask for the victim’s forgiveness.”

The military prosecutor said that a mediating justice suggested the light sentence based on the fact that the defendant “has a clean record, and he cooperated and took responsibility. He admitted guilt and saved judicial time,” and “]his act was not premeditated, he did it alone and did not use cold or hot weapons with the exception of pepper spray.”

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Amar described the incident to Ynet 10 days after the attack occurred at a relatively isolated bus stop near his training camp between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

“I was standing at the bus stop with my weapon hanging crosswise on my body, and I didn’t see him approaching,” he said of Al-Khatib, who had noticed the soldier while driving and parked his car to get at him. “Suddenly he sprayed me with pepper spray, right at my eyes. It was surprising, but within a second I realized it was an attack. He tried to grab my weapon. I saw almost nothing, but I started to fight him. I pinned him to the floor with my forearm and started choking him with my strong hand…. At the same time, I punched him from the side, but he didn’t give up.”

Al-Khatib passed out momentarily, but then recovered and started running away towards some sand dunes, the soldier continued. He couldn’t use his M-16 because his cartridge had fallen and broken during the initial scuffle, so he ran after the terrorist even though he could still barely see. “I caught him and the fight resumed, with my hitting him with the weapon exactly as they taught us in the army in Krav Maga (hand-to-hand combat).”

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The terrorist kept trying to grab the weapon, but knowing there were civilians a few hundred meters away at a more central bus stop, Amar said he “knew that if he succeeded, it would end badly, so I kept hitting him in the back and head.” Finally, a Border Police officer stumbled on the scene and helped him subdue Al-Khatib once and for all.

Amar’s brigade commander praised the soldier’s resourcefulness and determination at the time, saying that he “prevented a severe terror attack with his own two hands.” Amar received a certificate of appreciation from his commanders, and his story was publicized in many combat units as an example of the behavior of a fighter who doesn’t give up even if he is surprised and who doesn’t stop until the terrorist is neutralized.

The military judge in charge of the case has yet to decide whether to accept the suggested deal or not.