Court Ditches Plea Deal for Armon Hanatziv Terror Shooter

Israeli Border Policemen in Armon Hanatziv. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Israeli Border Policemen in Armon Hanatziv. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A hearing on the sentencing of Balal Abu Ghanem, who killed three people in an attack on a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of Yerushalayim last October, was halted Sunday after he refused to stand and admit his guilt, one of the conditions of a plea deal his attorneys had worked out with the court.

As a result, the court threw out the deal. The deal would have had Ghanem sentenced to three concurrent life terms, which would have left open the possibility of parole at some point.

In October 2015, Ghanem shot and killed three people – Chaim Chaviv (78), Alon Gobberg (51), and Richard Lakin (76), who was critically injured and later died of his wounds – when he climbed onto a bus in Armon Hanatziv and opened fire. Along with an accomplice, Ghanem blocked the exits of the bus, ensuring that no one could get off. Sixteen people were wounded in that attack.

Ghanem, the court ruled, had climbed on the number 78 bus last October 13, and began attacking both the passengers and the driver. Ghanem’s accomplice was shot dead, while he himself was shot and taken into custody.

In January, Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri stripped Ghanem and his family, along with the families of three other terrorists, of their Yerushalayim residency permits. Rabbi Deri employed a rarely-used rule that allows the interior minister to strip an individual of residency status in “extreme” cases. In a statement, Rabbi Deri said that these cases certainly fit that description. “The actions of these four justify this action,” he said. “Residency status entails a basic responsibility and loyalty. Residency status does not, and cannot, provide privileges alone.”

Although they are not Israeli citizens, Arab residents of Yerushalayim are generally able to travel anywhere in the country, and are eligible for all social and welfare benefits that Israeli citizens are eligible for.