Skip to main content

Israeli suspect in Duma firebomb case released to house arrest

Unnamed settler charged with conspiracy to murder over arson attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family, including a baby
A man holds a picture of Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabsha who was killed when the family home was set on fire in the West Bank village of Duma in July 2015 (AFP)

A court in Israel ordered the release on Thursday to house arrest of an Israeli suspect indicted over a 2015 arson attack in which three members of a Palestinian family were killed in Duma, a village in the occupied West Bank.

The unnamed and unidentified suspect, who was 17 years old at the time of the attack, has been in detention for more than two years. He will be placed under house arrest and will wear an electronic bracelet.

The district court in the city of Lod indicted him for conspiring to commit a murder, but not for the murder itself. 

In July 2015, Israeli settlers set fire to the Dawabsheh family's home in Duma, south of Nablus city, an attack which claimed the lives of Saad and Riham Dawabsheh and their 18-month-old baby, Ali.

Their eldest son, Ahmed, then four years old, was the sole survivor of the attack and suffered severe burns on more than 60 percent of his body that have reduced his mobility.

We have gone through a tough day. I feel like I did on the same day I saw Ali burned. He should stay in prison for his whole life

- Hussein Dawabsheh, victims' relative

The attack sparked international outrage, with the family accusing Israel of double standards in prosecuting the suspects.

Hussein Dawabsheh, the grandfather of the baby who was killed in the attack, criticised the Israeli court's decision.

“We have gone through a tough day. I feel like I did on the same day I saw Ali burned. He [the suspect] should stay in prison for his whole life,” he told Middle East Eye, vowing to take the matter to the supreme court.

Two other Israeli settlers were charged over the firebomb attack.

Amiram Ben Uliel, 21, from the northern illegal settlement of Shilo in the occupied West Bank, is being tried for murder over the attack.

He was indicted in January 2016 on the counts of murder, attempted murder, arson and conspiracy to commit a racially motivated felony.

Two years later, a verdict has yet to be issued for Ben Uliel.

Hearings in the Ben Uliel case have been held behind closed doors, with the latest in June, when settlers protesting outside the court shouted at Ali Dawabsheh's grandfather: "Where's Ali? Ali was burned. Ali's on the grill."

Jewish extremists

Another Israeli settler charged over the firebomb attack is Meir Ettinger, who was released in June 2016 after serving only 10 months in detention.

Ettinger is the grandson of US-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, one of Israel's most notorious Jewish extremists, whose ultranationalist party was banned from the Israeli parliament for its racist views in 1988.

He was assassinated by an Arab gunman in New York in 1990.

Ettinger, 24, has been accused of heading an extremist movement seeking to bring about religious "redemption" through attacks on Christian sites and Palestinian property.

All of the three Israeli settlers hold dual US-Israeli citizenship and are part of “the Revolt", a Zionist ultra-nationalist group operating in the West Bank.

Duma arrests: Far-right settlers on rough end of Israeli justice
Dimi Reider
Read More »

According to the court indictment of Ben Uliel, the two houses he chose to target belonged to the Dawabsheh family - one housing Saed, Reham, and their two young sons, Ahmad and Ali, and the other owned by his brother, Mamoun Dawabsheh, who was away with his family at the time.

The indictment said Ben Uliel sprayed the words "revenge" and "long live the king messiah" on the walls before he threw Molotov cocktails inside Mamoun Dawabsheh's empty house, which burned down completely.

He then directed his attention to Saed and Reham Dawabsheh's house and threw two Molotov cocktails inside the bedroom window, where the family of four were all sleeping, before fleeing the scene, the indictment said.

All four members of the Dawabsheh family caught fire.

Eighteen-month-old Ali was left in his bed inside the burning house, as Saed and Reham managed to escape the house. Their eldest son, Ahmed, reached the front door before collapsing.

Ali's charred body was recovered once the firefighters put out the flames.

His father, Saed, died of his wounds eight days after the attack, while Reham succumbed to her burns a month later.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.