Israel army court sentences US-Palestinian teen

Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli military court sentenced a Palestinian-American teenager on Wednesday to two weeks in prison for throwing rocks at Israeli forces, the military said, in a case that has drawn attention to Israel's system of military detention of Palestinian minors.

Israel's military said a juvenile military court convicted 14-year-old Mohammad Khalek for throwing stones, along with other Palestinians, at Israeli security forces on April 2. It said Khalek confessed to the stone throwing and reached a plea bargain for a fine of about $830 and a total of 31 days in jail, including the time he was held awaiting sentencing.

Mahmoud Hassan of the Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer said Khalek that taking into account the time Khalek already spent in prison, he will likely be released on Sunday.

Critics said the case of New Orleans-born Khalek was typical of Israel's policy of military detention for Palestinian minors, which the U.N. said last month gravely and systematically violates their rights.

The youth's father, Abdelwahab Khalek, said his son was taken into custody early in the morning April 5 by eight soldiers. They shackled and blindfolded his son as his five siblings watched, he said.

The military said the youth threw rocks at vehicles on a highway and at Israeli forces on several occasions. The military said there has been a spike in rock-throwing attacks on drivers, including an incident in early April, when rocks thrown at a civilian car next to an Israeli settlement injured seven, including an infant who was critically wounded.

Randa Wahbe, an advocacy officer with Addameer, which is legally representing Mohammad, said he told her in court that he was interrogated for hours, and at one stage he was pushed so hard that his dental braces were broken. She says he was told by interrogators that if he confessed to rock throwing quickly, he would be released.

A military spokesman said no complaints of abuse were filed.

The Israeli military also said Wednesday it arrested a Palestinian man last month who intended to carry out an attack on Israelis in the West Bank in exchange for money. The military said Amir Berkhat, who was released from Israeli custody in a 2011 prisoner exchange with the Palestinian group Hamas, agreed to carry out a shooting or grenade attack in return for receiving $60,000, promised to him by another prisoner released in the 2011 deal.

The military said there has been a recent increase in "terror-related activity" by Palestinians freed in the 2011 swap, in which nearly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier.

Also Wednesday, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said at least two explosive devices were thrown from a Palestinian area near Bethlehem toward Rachel's Tomb, a Jewish holy site in the area, landing in the site's parking lot. One woman was injured and treated at the scene, Rosenfeld said.

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AP writer Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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