An Egyptian court sentenced a young border policeman Saturday to 12 years in prison for killing five Israelis and wounding 25 others in a highway ambush just inside Israel’s border with Egypt last Nov. 25.
The families of the victims immediately protested that the penalty was too light, considering the carnage.
But the court, which pronounced sentence in Suez, said it had to consider the mental state of the accused, Ayman Mohammed Hassan, 23.
A recruit serving two years’ compulsory service in the border police, Ayman was diagnosed as having a “brain deficiency” which, according to the medical report, “reduced his responsibility but did not entirely absolve him of it.”
Relatives of the slain victims, who included four Israel Defense Force soldiers and a civilian bus driver, said the court should have imposed the death penalty, which is prescribed for murder under Egyptian law.
Reports from Suez said Hassan’s family, on the other hand, appeared overjoyed by the relatively lenient sentence.
The incident more than four months ago drew a strong protest from Israel to Egypt.
As the authorities of both countries pieced it together, Hassan, who was in uniform and carrying an automatic weapon, left his post on the Egyptian side of the border and penetrated about 300 yards into Israel.
He took a concealed position facing the Eilat-Rafah highway near Ein Netafim and commenced shooting at oncoming traffic. His targets included a military bus, a civilian bus carrying soldiers and a private car.
Three IDF sergeants and the civilian were killed instantly. A fourth soldier died later.
The shooting spree ended when Hassan fired at a bus carrying civilian employees of the Ovdat air force base and was wounded by its guard.
He was taken into custody and turned over to the Egyptian authorities, who promised a thorough investigation and speedy trial.
According to his statement at the time, Hassan said he shot the Israelis to avenge 17 Palestinians killed by Israeli border police during the Temple Mount riot in Jerusalem on Oct. 8.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.