A 23-year-old Palestinian was sentenced Monday to 16 life terms in prison for killing 16 people, including an American and two Canadians, when he forced a crowded passenger bus off the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway.
The attack July 6 was the bloodiest in the 22-month-old Palestinian uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the sentence imposed on Abdel Hadi Ghanem was one of the stiffest in Israel’s history.
Ghanem, 23, was sentenced to life in prison for each of the deaths in the bus attack. He also received 20 years for each of the 24 passengers wounded in the attack.
The sentences are to be served concurrently.
Chief Prosecutor Uzi Hasson said there is no parole for murder sentences and that Ghanem could only be freed if the Israeli president intervened on his behalf.
The victims of the bus attack included the only American to die in the uprising, lawyer Rita Levine, 39, of Philadelphia. Two other victims were Canadians, Fern Rykiss, 17, of Winnipeg, and Shelley Halpenny, 32, of Vancouver.
Ghanem, who was injured in the incident, said he carried out the attack to avenge a friend paralyzed by soldiers in a clash near his home in the Gaza Strip’s Nusseirat refugee camp.
The attack by Ghanem prompted several days of revenge attacks by Jews on Arabs in Jerusalem and other cities.
Also Monday, newspapers said the army will soon begin using observation balloons equipped with cameras to keep track of protests and disturbances related to the uprising.