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Convictions upheld for Israelis in murder of Palestinian teen

Israel’s supreme court on Thursday rejected an appeal by three members of a Jewish gang convicted of kidnapping, beating and burning alive a Palestinian teenager in 2014.

The decision upholds life sentences for two of them and a 21-year jail term for the third over the chilling attack that was part of a spiral of violence ahead of the 2014 Gaza war.

Israeli settler Yosef Haim Ben-David was convicted of leading the assault on Mohammed Abu Khdeir, 16, that shocked Israelis and Palestinians alike.

The two others have not been named since they were minors — 16 — at the time of the crime. Ben-David, whose claim of insanity was rejected, was 31 when he was sentenced to life in May 2016.

All three were present in the court on Thursday. Ben-David, appearing haggard in a prison uniform and with a scruffy beard, did not speak.

Ben-David had previously claimed to be the “messiah,” but judges ruled that he was mentally competent.

They said that at the time of the killing he was “in full command of his faculties … and that the mental issues he suffered from” did not mean he was not responsible for his actions, according to a justice ministry statement on the ruling.

Abu Khdeir’s father welcomed the court’s decision, but again called for the assailants’ homes to be demolished as Israel routinely does for Palestinian attackers.

“These people are like Nazis,” Hussein Abu Khdeir told journalists outside the courtroom.

Abu Khdeir’s mother, Suha, cried after the decision was announced.

Israel’s top court last year rejected the demand that the state demolish their homes, saying the petition was filed too late.