The Jerusalem District Court handed down multiple life sentences on Thursday to
two Palestinian terrorist cell members convicted of murdering American tourist
Kristine Luken and Zichron Ya’acov resident Neta Sorek.
Zaban, Miriam Mizrahi and Raphael Carmel imposed two consecutive life sentences
plus an additional 60 years in prison on Kifah Ghanimat, 34, considered the
leader of the cell.
Trial begins for killers of hiker Kristine Luken
Kifah was convicted under a plea bargain in which he
admitted to murdering Luken in the Mata forest outside Jerusalem in December
2010, and of murdering Sorek near the Beit Jamal monastery near Beit Shemesh in
February 2010. He was also convicted of unlawful entry into Israel, stealing
weapons, weapons trading and four counts of attempted murder and
The court also handed down a life sentence plus an additional 16
years in prison to Ibrahim Ghanimat, 33, another member of the terrorist cell,
who was convicted under a plea bargain of murdering Sorek and on other charges
including car theft and unlawful entry into Israel.
In sentencing Kifah
and Ibrahim Ghanimat, the judges spoke of the “harsh and cruel acts” they had
According to the indictment, Ibrahim and Kifah murdered Sorek
while she was spending time at the Beit Jamal monastery. The terrorist cell
members entered Israel illegally on February 23, 2010, from Surif, a town in the
PA-controlled area around Hebron. A day later, according to the indictment,
after breaking into a house and then stealing a car from Beit Shemesh, they
drove to the Beit Jamal monastery intending to return to Surif under cover of
darkness. However, they spotted Sorek walking alone in the monastery gardens and
decided to murder her for nationalistic reasons, stabbing Sorek to death, then
fleeing the scene in the stolen car, the indictment states.
on December 18, 2010, Kifah and another cell member, Aiad Fatfata, decided to
enter Israel again specifically to murder Jews, the indictment said. Again, they
chose the area around Beit Shemesh, and came across Kristine Luken and Kay
Wilson walking in the woods.
Luken was stabbed to death, but Wilson
managed to escape the same fate by playing dead and later fleeing despite
serious stab wounds.
Kifah Ghanimat was also convicted of one count of
aggravated rape. According to the indictment, the victim, a Beit Shemesh
resident, knew Kifah for several years before he attacked her in July
Kifah tied the victim’s hands, dragged her into a cave near the
Beit Jamal monastery and raped her at knifepoint.
The plea bargains
signed by Kifah and Ibrahim Ghanimat did not include any deal over punishment,
and as is usual in Israeli murder trials, those affected by the crime –
including the families of both murder victims – gave impact statements to the
court during the sentencing phase.
“We don’t just hear the cries of the
victims in our imaginations, but also in the enormous pain felt by their
families,” said the judges.
Sorek’s parents and husband described how
they had difficulty in coping with the loss of their beloved daughter and wife.
Sorek’s 12-year-old daughter was particularly affected and would need help for
some years to come, the court learned.
Sorek, aged 53, had been an
English teacher in Zichron Ya’acov for 13 years, and as a member of the feminist
group “Women for Peace,” Sorek had participated in Arab-Jewish coexistence
Sorek’s husband, Amotz, also wrote a letter to the judges in
which he described the loss felt by the family.
Luken’s father, Larry,
who came to Israel from San Antonio, Texas to give an impact statement to the
court, described how he had received his daughter’s shirt with 12 holes from the
12 stab wounds she received, and spoke of the gaping hole Luken’s death left in
In moving testimony to the court during the trial, Luken’s
friend Wilson described how she survived the terrifying attack by playing
She recalled how two men attacked her and Luken, binding their
hands behind their backs with shoelaces, gagging them with parts of a fleece
jacket and stabbing them multiple times with a 30 cm.-long serrated
Wilson was stabbed 12 times and suffered several broken ribs, a
punctured lung and a broken sternum.
Wilson’s testimony to police led to
the terrorist cell’s discovery and arrest.
“If Kay Wilson had not
pretended to be dead and had not survived, [Kifah Ghanimat] would have continued
to harm innocent victims,” the judges said on Thursday.
Speaking to The
Jerusalem Post by telephone after the sentencing on Thursday, Wilson said she
was “relatively pleased” by the harsh sentences imposed on Kifah and Ibrahim
Ghanimat. “But even the death penalty would not be enough for the crimes they
committed,” Wilson added.
Wilson praised the Israeli legal system, the
police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for doing what she said was an
“amazing job” in bringing Kifah and Ibrahim Ghanimat to justice.
looking to the future, Wilson said that she would never get over the
attack. “It will stay with me for the rest of my life,” she said. "It's
not just the loss of a friend. It’s my loss of innocence
Wilson described her life after the attack as “every moment is a
miracle, every moment is in agony.”