Chilling testimony from the main suspect in the July 2 murder of 16-year-old east Jerusalem resident Muhammad Abu Khdeir confirmed the brutal homicide was indeed rooted in revenge for the three yeshiva students abducted and killed by Hamas operatives in June.
“We said ‘they took three of ours, let’s take one of theirs,’ and we decided to pick someone up, kidnap him, beat him within an inch of his life and discard of him,” Yosef Haim Ben-David, 29, told police in a statement released Tuesday.
A resident of the West Bank settlement Adam, northeast of Jerusalem, Ben-David, who has a history of mental illness, has sought a temporary insanity defense for his role in the murder.
He was arrested last month along with two unidentified 16-year-old accomplices from the capital and Beit Shemesh.
During his testimony, the alleged ringleader behind the kidnapping and subsequent torture of Abu Khdeir, said he first discussed seeking revenge following the funerals of Gil- Ad Shaer, 16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16.
“We began talking about what happened, about the kidnapped youths, and decided that they needed to be avenged,” he said in his testimony.
“I was furious at [the killers] while the entire country was silently praying.”
According to Ben-David, the three then agreed to go on a “human hunt” for an Arab victim.
“We planned to hurt a soul, meaning to kill... to torture him and kill him,” he told police, adding that he wanted his victim “to know that he was about to die as a sacrifice for the Jews that were murdered.”
To that end, Ben-David testified that he filled three empty bottles with the gasoline used to burn their victim alive.
Following a failed July 1 attempt to abduct a seven-year- old boy in Beit Hanina, the threesome returned to the upscale Arab neighborhood the following night.
Shortly after forcing Abu Khdeir into his car in Beit Hanina as he waited to enter a mosque to pray during the month of Ramadan, Ben-David testified that he decided to kill him when he struggled with him en route to the Jerusalem Forest, where his corpse was found by police hours later.
“[He] began to thrash around, shouted Allahu Akbar! (God is Great), swore and cursed... I told (one of the unidentified minors) to finish him and make sure he doesn’t get up, because those guys have seven lives. [Abu Khdeir] started gurgling and eventually he stopped fighting.”
Upon arriving at the forest, Ben-David said he parked the vehicle, turned off the headlights, took Abu Khdeir out of the car and repeatedly beat him over the head with a crowbar while screaming that the attack was revenge for the murders of Shaer, Yifrah and Fraenkel.
Shortly thereafter, the 29-year-old told one of his teenage accomplices to retrieve the three bottles of gasoline, which they used to douse Abu Khdeir’s badly beaten body.
“I took out a lighter and set him on fire... everything was alight,” said Ben-David.
He concluded his testimony by claiming to regret his actions, apologizing to Abu Khdeir’s family, and asking God for forgiveness.
“I’m sorry for and regret what I did to the youth,” Ben-David said. “I apologize to the youth’s family and I hope that God forgives me.”