Scene of shooting attack on bus in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: screenshot)
Balal Abu Gaanam, an east Jerusalem resident accused of brutally murdering three Jewish men and wounding 10 others on an Egged bus in the capital last October, was convicted of multiple murder and attempted murder charges by Jerusalem District Court on Monday.
The prosecution is requesting that Gaanam, 21, of Jabel Mukaber, be sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for the murders in neighboring Armon Hanatziv, and an additional 70 years’ imprisonment for seven convictions of attempted murder.
Gaanam was also convicted of aiding an enemy during wartime.
Haim Haviv, 78, Alon Govberg, 51, and Richard Lakin, 76, were killed in the bloody October 13 attack, which made international headlines and rattled the nation.
State Prosecutor Uri Korb said that Ghanem “did not express regret for his actions.”
In its indictment, the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office stated that Gaanam had been a Hamas supporter for several years when his accomplice in the murders, Baha Elian, told him he obtained NIS 20,000 to carry out a terrorist attack against Jews.
The indictment stated that the two were enraged about “breakins at Al-Aksa [Mosque]” and at “settlers for murdering Palestinian children” – false allegations that have been regularly propagated by radical Islamist groups to incite deadly violence.
Gaanam allegedly agreed to join Elian in the attack, for which the latter purchased a gun and knife.
The two men then concealed their weapons in their pants and traveled together on Gaanam’s motorcycle to the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, which abuts Jabel Mukaber, parking the motorcycle next to a medical center before storming a No. 78 bus.
After they thought there were enough passengers on board, the indictment states that Gaanam and Elian made eye contact and Elian signaled to Gaanam to open fire. Gaanam began shooting the passengers, while Elian stabbed them.
When Gaanam ran out of bullets, he attempted to strangle another passenger, the indictment states. Eventually, security forces arrived, killing Elian and arresting Gaanam, who was wounded.
Haviv and Govberg were killed during the attack, while Lakin, a prominent educator, peace activist and grandfather of eight, who made aliya from Connecticut, died from his wounds two weeks later.
Following his death, one of Lakin’s sons described him as “a kind, gentle loving person whose legacy is acts of kindness.”
In January Elian’s and Gaanam’s homes were respectively demolished and sealed off by security forces.
The date of Gaanam’s sentencing has not been announced.