Palestinian stone thrower convicted of murder in historic ruling

( The Ofer Base Military Court in Israel on Tuesday convicted a Palestinian man of the 2011 murders of 30-year-old Asher Palmer and his 1-year-old son Yonatan in a ruling that is expected to set a legal precedent.

“This is the first time a man has been convicted for murder over stone-throwing,” Attorney Adrian Agassi, a former military court judge who represents the Palmer family, told Israel’s Channel 2 News, according to Israel Hayom. “The court accepted the fact that this was not a kid throwing rocks at the road, but a systematic plan for [the defendant] to try and kill Jews.”

Waal al-Arja, of the town of Halhoul, 5 kilometers (3 miles) north of Hebron, a former officer in the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, was convicted of two counts of murder in the Palmer case, as well as 22 counts of attempted murder over a series of stone-throwing incidents on Route 60 in Judea and Samaria. His sentence is pending.

Palmer had been driving from Kiryat Arba to Jerusalem when he was attacked by Arja and another man, Ali Saada. The pair was stoning cars traveling on Route 60, near the Halhul Junction. They drove up to Palmer’s car and Arja threw a large rock at it, which shattered Palmer's windshield and hit him in the face. He lost control of the vehicle, which swerved and overturned, landing on the side of the road. Palmer and his baby son were killed on impact.

The incident was initially thought to be an accident, but a police investigation later concluded that it was the result of a terror attack. The Israeli Defense Ministry subsequently stated that Palmer and his son would be recognized as terror victims.

A conviction of murder in cases involving the stoning of cars traveling across Judea and Samaria is rare. Military Judge Major Amir Dahan was quoted by Army Radio as saying that in Arja’s case, “the prosecution proved that he had the intent and means to kill.”

Posted on April 3, 2013 .