Palestinian jailed for 30 years for trying to cause gas leaks

Jerusalem: The Jerusalem District Court sentenced a Palestinian from east Jerusalem on Wednesday to 30 years in prison for attempting to cause several gas leaks in homes of Jews in Jerusalem.

According to the court's protocol, released by the Israeli Court Authority spokesperson, Aziz Awisat, 49, from Jabel Mukabar neighbourhood, was sentenced to 30 years in prison over nine charges of attempted murder as he tried to cause gas leaks in Jews' apartments in Jerusalem, as well as for another attempted murder in 2012.

In that incident, Awisat attempted to kill an orthodox Jewish man with an axe and seriously wounded him. The indictment was made against the defendant in March 2014.

Awisat was convicted after admitting to the charges amid a plea agreement. He told the court he had carried out his acts after voices in his head told him to do so, claiming he was not psychologically fit. The court, however, found the defendant to have been aware of his actions and concluded he had premeditated them.

"The defendant wanted to kill people for being Jews and the killing potential was significant," Xinhua news agency quoted the three-judges panel as writing in the sentencing decision. According to the court's protocol, the defendant decided to assist Palestinian militant organisations in 2012 in operation against Israel, amid the fight over the holy site of Temple Mount in Jerusalem and claims against Israel's activity at the Al Aqsa mosque, as well as after Israel's operations in the Gaza Strip then.

The court records stated that in 2014, two years after the axe attack from which he managed to escape, the defendant had apparently heard of a gas explosion causing the collapse of a building and killing three family members. He then decided, according to court documents, to cut gas pipes in residential complexes and did so nine times. In all these times, although gas leaks were detected, no injuries or damages were caused.

Awisat has six children and used to work as a construction worker. He had stopped working three years ago and had to settle on national insurance stipends for assistance due to his so-called "deteriorating mental state". There are 300,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in the 1967 Mideast War.

While they have permanent Israeli residence, they are not full-fledged citizens and cannot vote for the elections. There is also no proper infrastructure in the area, as well as poor education and other social services. However, there is constant friction between Palestinians in the area and the Israeli security forces and mounting tensions as Jewish settlements are established in east Jerusalem.

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