‘We saw the fire eating the house’: A report from the West Bank village of Duma

Israel/Palestine
on 7 Comments

“This was the kitchen,” the young man who led my friend Tovah and me to the house told me yesterday as I entered. “The bedroom is in the back.”

The smell of burnt debris penetrated before I had the chance to process what I was seeing. A simple white stucco doorway, charred at the top, led into an interior so thoroughly scorched it was impossible to determine what I was looking at.

I was in the Nablus-area Palestinian village of Duma, where, earlier yesterday morning, Israeli settlers had poured flammable liquid into the window of the home in which I now stood, and then tossed molotov cocktails inside.

The mother (Reham) and the father (Sa’ad) and their 4-year old son (Ahmed) sustained severe burns and are currently fighting for their lives.

Their 18-month old son and brother, Ali Dawabsheh, was burned to death.

The young man led me to the bedroom where the family had been sleeping when the firebombs had been thrown in through the window he now pointed out to me. I stood in the middle of blackened detritus, unsure of whether to photograph, film, or just be in silent witness. I tried to imagine, and then tried not to imagine, the terror that must have gripped Ali’s mother and father when they realized their home was burning around them and their children. I tried to imagine, and then tried not to imagine, the screams of panic that must have emanated. I imagined, and then tried not to imagine, toddler Ali alive, playing, beginning to walk and to talk in this very home whose scorched remains surrounded me.

Hakam Dawabsheh, a distant relative and a teacher in a neighboring village, was one of those who rushed to the house shortly after the blaze began. He had been using internet on his computer at 2:30am when his younger brother alerted him that there was a fire in the village. At first, Hakam assumed it was a grass fire that had grown out of control. Approaching the site of the fire, he heard people screaming that a house was burning.

“We ran as fast as we could, and came here,” Hakam told me, exhaustion and grief etched onto his face. “We saw the fire eating the house.” The parents had already been removed from the inferno before Hakam arrived. But, “[People] said that there is a little boy in [the house.] And many people tried to save the boy but they couldn’t enter the house because of the big fire. And we tried our best but no one could reach the boy.”

Hakam realized that the fire was caused by arson only after he saw the graffiti that had been spray painted on the walls next to the house. “Revenge” and “Long live the messiah.”

“The boy is dead,” Hakam said. “May Allah accept him in the top of paradise.”

Sixteen-year-old Lina, who lives in the house neighboring Ali’s, was sleeping when the smell of the smoke and sounds of shouting and crying woke her. She ran to her roof, where she could see the burning house, the police and emergency vehicles, and her panic-and-grief stricken neighbors. “I was crying,” she said. When I asked her to tell me about Ali, she described him as a kind and sweet 18-month old.

Horrific as this individual incident was, Lina had a point she wanted to make to me, and to the world: violence from Israeli settlers is all too familiar for Palestinians.

“We live this action every day. We want to live. We have children, the same as you. We have people who want to live, the same as you. We are humans, just like you are.  For all those who can hear me: We want to live. We deserve to live…Enough is enough. Enough with war.”

This post originally appeared on Jen Marlowe’s website View from the donkey’s saddle.

About Jen Marlowe

Jen Marlowe is a human rights activist, documentary filmmaker and author. Her work on Palestine/Israel include the award-winning film One Family in Gaza and the award-winning book The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian's Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker. She is the founder of donkeysaddle projects. You can follow her on Twitter at donkeysaddleorg and her blog is View from the donkey's saddle.

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7 Responses

  1. just
    August 1, 2015, 3:08 pm

    Thank you, Jen Marlowe~ the silence at the beginning of your video was so fitting. ;-(

    Thanks to Lina and Hakam Dawabsheh. I still bear witness to Sumud, ever present and in spite of their obvious grief and pain. My thoughts are with the Douma community and the poor family fighting for their lives.

    These are the people of the land, the Palestinian people.

    The terrorist monsters and their communities are illegal squatters and will never be indigenous to the land~ not now, not ever.

  2. Abierno
    August 1, 2015, 4:26 pm

    From the above account as well as other information, this hideous act was, more probably than not, premeditated: The perpetrators clearly had investigated the layout of the house, identifying exactly the room where the family slept. Obviously not only was the room doused with flammable materials but also accelerants to insure the rapid incineration of all who slept there.

    Given the number of successful arson attacks on Palestinians, their churches and mosques, consideration should be given to the idea that somewhere in the heartland of extremism, individuals are being given clear cut directions as to how to cause the most damage in the least amount of time. Arson attacks have “signatures” yet Israeli police/Shin Bet/Mossad never address this issue – inquiring minds would predict that they are well aware of potential perpetrators from the materials used and the method of attack. They even have had the temerity to admit that such an attack was totally predictable in the course of current affairs. This shows not only how cavalier and feckless Israel is with Palestinian lives (especially those of children) but also how totally Palestinians are unprotected from such genocidal violence. Again, the 2+ IDF divisions called out to the territories are there to protect Jewish lives, and already one Palestinian teen has been shot dead.

    • just
      August 1, 2015, 4:48 pm

      +1, Abierno. Why can’t they find the terrorists? I think it’s because they are being protected by the other squatters and the PTB.

      There have been 2 murders thus far after Ali’s:

      “Thousands mourn as West Bank deaths mount”
      http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=766799

      and

      “Arsonists set fire to Hamas leader’s car”
      http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=766796

      and

      “RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Israeli forces shot and injured eight Palestinians with rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes near al-Jalazun refugee camp that broke out on Saturday following the funeral of 17-year-old Laith al-Khaldi who was shot dead by Israeli forces the day before.

      Israeli forces reportedly fired live and rubber-coated steel rounds at dozens of Palestinian youths as they marched toward the illegal Israeli settlement of Beit El in northern Ramallah district following Khaldi’s funeral.

      An Israeli army spokesperson said she was looking into the incident.
      Witnesses said that settlers also opened fire on the demonstrators.
      Palestinian youth threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli forces and settlers in response, and the Molotov cocktails reportedly set fire to grass near the settlement.

      The injured Palestinians were taken to the Ramallah Governmental Hospital for treatment.

      Israeli forces reportedly targeted journalists and medical teams with tear-gas canisters during the clashes.”

      http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=766803

      • italian ex-pat
        August 1, 2015, 10:20 pm

        “Why can’t they find the terrorists?” Duh. This time there was no video camera catching them in the act, like the murderers of Abu Khdeir. In that one case, you must remember the Israeli police boasting of having apprehended the killers thanks to their swift action – yeah, after trying to blame the family for a presumed ‘honor killing’, and only after a Palestinian shopkeeper came forward with the video that showed the car, the guys kidnapping the boy, everything except their home address. Swift action indeed.
        The criminals in the Douma attack wore black masks, anyway, so the only way to identify them would be for someone in their community to turn them in. Won’t happen.
        Which got me thinking, shouldn’t the Israeli politicians, who are so vehemently outraged at those responsible, be putting their money where their mouth is and offer a BIG reward for info leading to their capture? Kind of showing, you know, that they really mean what they say.

    • turveyd
      August 3, 2015, 11:19 am

      I think you’re right. Very like the well-planned attack on the King David Hotel…..

  3. JennieS
    August 1, 2015, 6:53 pm

    If the situation were reversed and an Israeli family had been fire-bombed the “forces of law and order”, police, IDF, Shin Bet, would have already rampaged through the nearest Palestinian villages breaking down doors, trashing houses, arresting dozens of men and boys and probably shooting a few just for good measure.

    Haaretz has a report on protests against the gay pride parade stabbings and the arson attack. Israeli President Rivlin had this to say:-

    “Citizens of Israel, a Jewish and democratic Israel, democratic and Jewish Israel, needs a wake-up call today,” Rivlin said. “The Israel of the Declaration of Independence, the Israel of the vision of the Prophets, of compassion and mercy, today needs a wake-up call. We will not be zealots. We will not be bullies. We will not become a state of anarchy.”

    We believe you Mr Rivlin , really we do, not.

  4. gamal
    August 1, 2015, 9:27 pm

    “We live this action every day. We want to live. We have children, the same as you. We have people who want to live, the same as you. We are humans, just like you are. For all those who can hear me: We want to live. We deserve to live…Enough is enough. Enough with war.”

    In 1964 Qari Sh. Abdul Basit Abdul Samad read, inevitably, the 56th sura, al-waqiah in Masjid Al-Aksa, what will you leave us, when you are finished with us?

    http://quran.com/56

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