An Israeli court on Sunday morning indicted two Jewish Israeli extremists suspected in the July arson attack on a Palestinian home, which killed a baby and his parents — a case that has been unsolved for months and fueled the current rise of tensions.
The arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh, while his mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali’s 4-year-old brother Ahmad survived with third-level injuries.
The firebombing, carried out at night while the family slept, sparked soul-searching among Israelis.
AP said that the long-awaited indictment follows months of investigations into a web of Jewish extremists operating in the West Bank. The indictment named Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old West Bank settler, as the main suspect in the attack. A minor was charged as an accessory.
Yinon Reuveni, 20, and another minor were charged for other violence against Palestinians. All four were charged with belonging to a terrorist organization.
The indictment said Ben-Uliel admitted to spraying graffiti on the Dawabsheh family home and then tossing a firebomb through a bedroom window before fleeing the scene. Ben-Uliel’s parents said they believe in his innocence and that he was tortured during interrogation.
But critics have said that similar, albeit not deadly, attacks have festered for years with little action by the government. And for months, Palestinians watched angrily as the case remained unsolved, intensifying a feeling of skewed justice in the occupied territory, where suspected Palestinian militants are prosecuted under a separate system of military law that gives them few rights. The arson also touched on Palestinian fears of extremist Jewish settlers, who have attacked Palestinian property with impunity.
The Israeli security service (Shin Bet) said Sunday that the suspects admitted to carrying out the Duma attack, claiming it was in retaliation for the killing of an Israeli settler by Palestinians a month earlier.
It said all the suspects were part of a group of extremists that had carried out a series of attacks over the years in a religiously inspired campaign to undermine the government and sow fear among non-Jews.
Nasser Dawabsheh, Saad’s brother, said the indictments were not enough.
“It’s clear the Israeli institutions are not serious,” he said. “It’s clear there was an organization behind this crime, even the media knows that. And the government was not serious in preventing it and is not serious in pursuing the killers.”
Jewish extremists have for years vandalized or set fire to Palestinian property, as well as mosques, churches, the offices of dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases. The so-called “price tag” attacks seek to exact a cost for Israeli steps seen as favoring the Palestinians.
The extremists are part of a movement known as the “hilltop youth,” a leaderless group of young people who set up unauthorized outposts, usually clusters of trailers, on West Bank hilltops — land the Palestinians claim for their hoped-for state. A lawyer for one of the suspects says his client gave a forced confession after interrogators deprived him of sleep and tied him upside down by his feet.
The Duma attack was one of the main reasons for the current spark of violence in the occupied West Bank, showing Palestinian frustration by years of unchecked settler violence.
During the past three months, 143 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, and 22 settlers on the Israeli side.