Military prosecutors filed indictments Thursday against a Palestinian over a West Bank shooting attack last month that killed teenage Israeli student Yehuda Guetta and wounded two other teens, one of them seriously.
Muntasir Shalabi was charged at the Judea Military Court with intentional homicide, three counts of attempted homicide, possession and use of an unlicensed weapon, and obstruction of justice.
Shalabi, 47, is suspected of driving to the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank on May 2 and opening fire at a group of Israeli students from the nearby yeshiva in the Itamar settlement. The shooting fatally wounded 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta, seriously injured a second teenager and lightly wounded a third.
According to court papers, prosecutors say Shalabi had decided to carry out an attack at the junction a month earlier, but twice put it off because he didn’t feel well.
On the day of the attack, he drove to the junction with a pistol on the passenger seat, hidden beneath a prayer mat. Pulling to a stop alongside the bus stop, he shouted “Allahu akhbar!” (God is great) and opened fire, continuing to shoot until the pistol malfunctioned and jammed. He drove off as soldiers guarding the junction opened fire at him. Though he was injured, he escaped to the West Bank town of Aqraba where he ditched the car, which was later torched by locals as soldiers arrived to seize it.
Shalabi went to the home of an acquaintance and confessed what he had done, prosecutors say. From there he was helped to a nearby farm, where he was given more assistance. Shalabi remained hidden in a deserted building at the farm for nearly three days. He then moved on, hours before Israeli security forces reached the location and surrounded the building.
Shalabi traveled to Fasa’il in the northern West Bank where he disposed of the pistol and called a friend, asking him for help. The friend took him to Qalandiya, where he took a taxi to Ramallah. There he cut and dyed his hair, switched clothes and bought a new cellphone. He met up with another friend and they decided that he was better off giving himself up to Palestinian Authority security services than taking his chances of escaping Israeli authorities.
However, officers from the Israel Police’s Special Policing Unit and IDF troops, acting on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet, raided a building in the village of Silwad, near Ramallah, and took Shalabi into custody. The arrest came an hour after student Yehuda Guetta succumbed to his injuries.
Attorney Haim Bleicher, from the Honenu legal aid organization representing the Guetta family, said in a statement that “the time has come to do justice and sentence the terrorist to death.”
Israeli law does not permit the death sentence for convicted terrorists.
Bleicher also called for legal proceedings to be held against all those who assisted Shalabi.
At Thursday’s hearing, Shalabi’s defense attorney claimed that the defendant suffers from serious psychological disorders and asked for an assessment by the district psychologist, Army Radio reported.
No assessment has been carried out so far, but another mental health professional who examined Shalabi determined that his claim of having a disorder is inconsistent and unreliable and that he is apparently putting on act, according to the report.
Shalabi, a father of seven, is not believed to have any affiliation with Palestinian terror groups, the Shin Bet security service has said.
Last month IDF Central District Commander Tamir Yadai signed off on an order to demolish Shalabi’s home in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya. Objections raised by his family against the demolition were rejected by the army. The home has been mapped out for demolition.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.