Death of 18-month-old in arson attack heightens tensions in West Bank

The slumbering Dawabsheh family never stood a chance when a pair of arsonists crept into their home in a village in the West Bank in the early hours of Friday. A smashed window, a flaming molotov cocktail, a whoosh of fire and piercing screams followed.


Within minutes, the parents had crawled from the house with life-threatening third degree burns covering most of their bodies. Inside, four-year-old Ahmad was shrieking in fear and pain; his infant brother, Ali, just 18 months old, was dead or dying, his body burned beyond recognition.


Within hours, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, condemned the attack – quickly attributed to extremist Israeli settlers – as an “act of terrorism”, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, denounced it as a “war crime”, and the European Union and United Nations had demanded swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Thousands of Palestinians attended Ali’s funeral and other protests in the West Bank, their anger fuelled by a litany of settler violence and intimidation.


The family’s home in Duma, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, was left blackened with soot and coated in ash, although graffiti left by the arsonists was still visible: “revenge”, “price tag” and “long live the Messiah” were scrawled in Hebrew letters.


According to witnesses, two men wearing black balaclavas firebombed the house just after 2am. Neighbour Ibrahim Dawabsheh, 23, a Palestinian construction worker in the nearby Jewish settlement Shilo, was talking to his fiancee on the phone on an upstairs balcony when he heard his neighbours’ screams.




Meanwhile, the Palestinian fire brigade retrieved Ali’s body, which they said was burned beyond recognition. Reham, Saad and Ahmad were transferred by the Israeli military to a hospital near Tel Aviv. Both adults had third degree burns over 80-90% of their bodies while Ahmad had burns over 60% of his.


In a statement, Netanyahu said:

“I am shocked over this reprehensible and horrific act. This is an act of terrorism in every respect. The state of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are.”


He later visited the Dawabsheh family in hospital. “When you stand next to the bed of this small child, and his infant brother had been so brutally murdered, we’re shocked, we’re outraged … There is zero tolerance for terrorism wherever it comes from, whatever side of the fence it comes from, we have to fight it and fight it together,” he said, adding that he had spoken with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas described the attack as a “war crime” and said it would form part of the Palestinians’ case against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, said he was “outraged” by the attack. “This heinous murder was carried out for a political objective. We must not permit such acts to allow hate and violence to bring more personal tragedies and to bury any prospect of peace. This reinforces the need for an immediate resolution of the conflict and an end to the occupation.”


Source: Kate Shuttleworth in Duma, full story published in The Guardian Friday 31 July 2015

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