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Photograph: Freeimages.com/Peter Szustka

A radical Jew who kidnapped and slayed a Palestinian teen and helped trigger a cycle of violence that escalated into the 2014 Gaza war was sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison by an Israeli court on Tuesday.

Yosef Haim Ben-David was convicted last month by Jerusalem's District Court for abducting and murdering 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdair in July 2014.

Ben-David and two relatives, minors at the time, were found guilty of kidnapping Abu Khdair from his East Jerusalem home, beating him unconscious and driving him to a nearby forest, where Ben-David doused the teen in petrol and burnt him alive.

Prosecutors had demanded a prison sentence of life plus 35 years for Ben-David, but prosecutor Uri Korb told reporters that the sentence showed that the Israeli justice system dealt severely with every convict, regardless of race and religion.

The sentencing of the main culprit was the culmination of a highly emotional and tense trial. 

"He deserved the death sentence!" exclaimed the victim's mother, Suha Abu Khdair, in the court room. 

"He must die in jail," said the slayed teen's father, Hussein. "We won't accept anything less."

Dozens of furious Palestinian supporters protested outside the proceedings, some screaming, "Death to Jews."

Shortly before the sentence was handed down, Ben-David apologized to the court but refused to take responsibility for the act.

"Everything that happened, it wasn't in my control," he said.

Last month the court ruled that Ben-David had been fully aware of his actions when he was involved in the crime and that he was fit to be sentenced.

His lawyers had tried to claim insanity or reduced responsibility.

Ben-David claimed the murder was revenge for the earlier abduction and slaying of three Israeli teens by two Palestinians in the West Bank.  

His two younger relatives were handed prison sentences of life and 21 years, respectively.

Prosecutors said Ben-David had planned the crime, while the two minors, who have since turned 18, helped him.

The June 2014 kidnapping of the three Israeli teens prompted a large-scale search-and-arrest campaign in the West Bank, which was avenged by armed groups in the Gaza Strip with sporadic rocket fire that later escalated into the 50-day Gaza war.

Life sentences in Israel are defined as indefinite, but the president can limit them to 25 or 30 years on a case by case basis, according to the recommendation of the parole board. A parole board can also recommend against shortening a life sentence.  

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