Ron Yitzhak Kokia.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
A Bedouin-Israeli man was convicted by the Beersheba District Court on Tuesday of murdering IDF soldier Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kokia in November 2017 outside an Arad shopping mall.
Kokia’s family renewed their call for the death penalty for Khaled Abu Jouda and for demolishing his family’s house, though Israel has not carried out the death penalty in decades.
Khaled’s half-brother, Zahi, has been indicted for attempted murder and other offenses.
Kokia, 19, a sergeant in the IDF’s Nahal Brigade, was stabbed to death in the neck by Abu Jouda, who also stole his Tavor assault rifle.
The two residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Kuseife in the Negev were arrested the day after the attack after they were identified using nearby video footage. While they had no previous criminal record, the court said that Khaled identified with various terror organizations and that he harbored extremist beliefs.
The court stated that Khaled watched numerous videos of IDF operations in the Gaza Strip and videos praising Hamas.
Radicalized by the videos, Khaled began praising Islam and Allah on his Facebook page, writing on October 30, “Allah, protect the land of the Muslims, bring down your enemies, the enemies of the faith, and give us victory over the tribe of heretics.”
Following that post Khaled is believed to have decided to carry out an attack against an IDF soldier to show his support for the Palestinian people and Hamas.
According to the verdict, Khaled had originally planned to kidnap a soldier using anesthetics that he was planning to steal from Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center where he worked. He then intended to use the soldier as a bargaining chip to secure the release of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails.
The court wrote that he purchased a Renault Megane to use as a getaway car and withdrew NIS 54,000 that he intended to use while living on the run.
At some point Khaled told Zahi of his plans, and asked him to find an armed soldier to attack. The two decided on the word “pizza” to use as a code word for “weapon” so that they could discuss their plans without being caught.
During October and November the two drove around Arad, including the Tel Arad military base, looking for a soldier who was alone who they could kidnap and kill, and use his rifle to carry out more attacks. During their multiple scouting drives they spotted many soldiers walking alone at night, but decided against attacking them since they were unarmed.
According to the verdict, Khaled spotted Kokia waiting for a bus alone on November 30 and decided to carry out the attack. He then called Zahi and told him that there was “pizza.” Khaled exited his car armed with a knife and approached Kokia from behind, stabbing him several times.
Though Kokia fought to prevent his weapon from being taken, Khaled eventually overpowered him and escaped the scene. Returning back to Kuseife, Khaled told Zahi that he had carried out their plan, showing his half-brother the bloodied knife and the soldier’s Tavor assault rifle.
The two hid the weapon and washed the blood from the knife. They then went out for pizza to establish their alibi.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.
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