Palestinian-American sentenced to two life sentences for murder of Yehuda Guetta

The indictment was filed following a combined interrogation by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Police.

Yehuda Guetta of blessed memory.  (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY)
Yehuda Guetta of blessed memory.
(photo credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY)

The Judea Military Court on Wednesday sentenced Muntasir Shalabi, a Palestinian with American citizenship, to two life sentences for the murder of 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta in a drive-by shooting on May 2, 2021, at the Tapuah Junction.

Shalabi, 44, was convicted in August of the murder as well as of multiple attempted murder counts due to his wounding of two other 19-year-olds during the terrorist attack.

The legal proceedings moved forward at a fast pace with the IDF prosecution filing an indictment on June 10, and the trial opening on June 29.

The court issued a fine of NIS 1.5 million to be paid to Guetta’s family, NIS 1m. to be paid to Benaya Yisrael Peretz, and NIS 20,000 to be paid to Amichai Halah.

Despite the life sentences and brisk pace of the proceedings, Guetta’s father, Eliyahu, expressed mixed feelings, saying he had demanded a death sentence.

Funeral of Yehuda Guetta, who was killed in the Tapuah Junction attack on May 2nd, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Funeral of Yehuda Guetta, who was killed in the Tapuah Junction attack on May 2nd, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In theory, the IDF West Bank Courts could impose a death sentence, but in practice the judges follow the Israeli civilian courts, where there has been no such punishment other than for arch-Nazi Adolf Eichmann.

The indictment was filed following a combined interrogation by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police.

In addition, five others were indicted in the Judea Military Court in the spring for obstruction of justice by giving Shalabi a place to hide during the initial manhunt when he managed to avoid arrest.

All five are being kept in police custody until the conclusion of their trials.

In late June 2021, there was an additional suspect who was also expected to be indicted in the future for harboring the murderer in his efforts to avoid authorities.

Shalabi was eventually arrested in the town of Silwad.

A resident of Jerusalem, Guetta had been a student in the Itamar Yeshiva. He is survived by his parents, four brothers and two sisters.

“Yehuda, in the last few days, we worried as you fought for your life. We prayed from the depths of our hearts that you would overcome your wounds, and across the entire country we begged for your recovery. But this morning, to our great sorrow, these prayers have turned to a eulogy,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said solemnly at Guetta’s funeral on May 6.

“Our hearts are broken but our spirits are strong,” Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said, calling upon the government to establish a settlement near Tapuah Junction in Guetta’s memory.

“I send sincere condolences to Yehuda Guetta’s family,” former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said within minutes of hearing of the young man’s death.

“These are difficult moments for the Guetta family and the entire nation of Israel shares in your sorrow,” he said.

“My heart goes out to the Guetta family who lost Yehuda tonight, only 19 years old, who was shot during the heinous terrorist attack at the Tapuah Junction,” a statement by Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.