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Israeli court sentences Palestinian youth to 17 years in prison over protests

The sentence is the harshest to be handed out in connection with the 2021 riots between Palestinians and Jewish residents of mixed Israeli towns
A Palestinian reacts during a protest against Israeli settlements near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank 15 September 2023 (Reuters)
A protest against Israeli settlements near Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, 15 September 2023 (Reuters)

The Israeli Central Court in Haifa on Monday sentenced a young Palestinian man to 17 years in prison over riots that took place in 2021.

Qusay Abbas, a 24-year-old from Acre (known as Akka to Palestinians) was detained on 30 May 2021 and convicted on 13 July 2023 on various charges, including "attempted murder of a Jewish citizen named Mor Ganashvili", as well as "violations and terrorist acts motivated by racism".

The court rejected the claim made by defence lawyer Ramzi Ktilat that Ganashvili had arrived at the scene to carry out a ramming operation, and that Abbas did not intend to kill him.

The public prosecutor initially filed charges against Abbas in July 2021, accusing him of "attempted intentional killing of a Jewish citizen" during the 2021 protests.

At that time, the public prosecutor accused nine young men from Acre of "participation in the attack" and the court convicted two of them, but Abbas's indictment was the most serious.

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The sentence is the longest prison term handed to a suspected participant in the riots, which took place in mixed Israeli towns in May 2021, against the war on Gaza and the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque at the time, along with attempts to displace residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem, and attacks by settlers on Palestinians.

During 11 days of violent riots, two Palestinians citizens of Israel and one Jewish Israeli were killed. 

In the aftermath of the unrest, in which police seemed to lose control of the streets, hundreds of Palestinian citizens were rounded up in a mass arrest campaign dubbed "Law and Order" by police.

Meanwhile, no one has been charged for the murder of Moussa Hassouna, a Lydd-native Palestinian who was shot dead by four Israelis during the riots. Police closed the investigation into his killing saying the suspects opened fire in "self-defence".

Last year, the Israeli public prosecutor announced the filing of 397 indictments against 616 defendants, the vast majority Palestinians, a quarter of which are minors, in connection with the events, also dubbed by Palestinians as the “Dignity Uprising”.

The charges included the alleged commission of terrorist acts or racially motivated offences. Those charged also included Israeli settlers. 


Abbas's mother, Rania, told Arab48 website that she is hopeful he may be included in future prisoner exchange deals between Hamas and Israel.

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"Despite the unjust decision against my son Qusay, we are holding on to hope that God will achieve justice for my son because he did not harm anyone, and my son will come out of prison, and I am proud of him."

Abbas's lawyer, Ktilat, told the news website that the sentence was disproportionate and politically motivated.

"These policies are practised, especially at this time, against Arabs by all [Israeli] state institutions, the police, the public prosecutor, and the courts, where these institutions seek revenge against the Arab community," he said.

Human rights groups have accused Israeli authorities of discriminatory policing and the disproportionate targeting of Palestinian citizens since the 2021 events. 

Amnesty International has said Israeli forces carried out a "discriminatory repressive campaign" against Palestinians in Israel in Jerusalem, targeting them with "arrests, torture and unlawful force" during and after the riots. 

Human Rights Watch echoed similar criticism, accusing Israeli police of at times appearing to “react half-heartedly and unevenly to violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel committed by Jewish ultra-nationalists".

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