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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Life sentences for W Bank killer
Asher Weisgan
The court said Weisgan should be punished for each killing
An Israeli court has handed a Jewish settler four life sentence for killing four Palestinians in the West Bank last year during Israel's Gaza withdrawal.

Asher Weisgan snatched a gun and shot his victims - who worked at Shilo settlement - in cold blood.

He told investigators his intention had been to provoke Palestinian retaliation which would distract the Israeli army.

Having to quell Palestinian unrest in the West Bank would stop the army from evicting settlers in Gaza, he hoped.

Weisgan knew his victims personally, and he was giving three of them a lift home from work when he snatched a security guard's gun and opened fire.

He was ordered to pay nearly $250,000 in compensation, divided between the four Palestinian families who lost relatives and another man who was injured.

It was a savage murder of innocents, who fell victim to the twisted logic of the accused
Judges' ruling

The judges said the four life sentences were to run consecutively, and they added an additional 12 years to the sentence.

"Every one of the victims had a name and an identity... They were the immediate victims of the convicted man's actions and he must be punished for the murders of each and every one of them," the judges ruled.

"It was a savage murder of innocents, who fell victim to the twisted logic of the accused," they said.

Convictions for crimes by settlers in the West Bank are rare, according to Israeli human rights groups.

Weisgan has said he has no regrets about the shootings and claimed he carried them out as a "necessary defence" to prevent greater harm coming to the people of Israel.

He also expressed the hope that someone would kill then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the architect of the withdrawal plan.

Mr Sharon - who had a severe stroke in January - withstood a wave of protests from the settler movement over his plan to withdraw settlers and the troops who protected them from the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.

Two weeks before the killing, a Jewish extremist had shot dead four Israeli Arabs on a bus in Shfaram, before he was lynched by angry crowd.

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