A Palestinian toddler was killed in the central West Bank village of Duma in an overnight settler arson attack that targeted two homes. Eighteen-month old Ali Saad Dawabsha died in the gasoline fire-bombings, and his mother and brother were seriously injured. The wounded were transferred by helicopter to a Israeli hospital in Jerusalem for treatment. A funeral was held in Duma this morning for Dawabsha.
A neighbor, Ibrahim Dawabsha, told Reuters he saw two masked assailants fleeing the scene. “We found the parents outside with burns, they said there was another son in the house. We brought him out and then they said there was another boy inside, but we couldn’t reach the bedroom because of the fire. He was left inside until rescue forces came,” he said.
Outside of Dawabsha’s home, the arsonists spray painted a star of David and “revenge” in Hebrew, signifying the killing was a “price tag” attack, in which Israeli settlers seek retaliation for government demolitions of settlements by committing acts of violence against Palestinians. Earlier this week Israel demolished structures in the West Bank settlement of Beit El outside of Ramallah, clashing with hundreds of right-wing protesters during the leveling.
Last night’s slaying has caused uproar from top officials in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
“We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the brutal assassination of the toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement this morning. “Over a year ago President Abbas requested international protection for Palestinians, a call that has been ignored so far. Today we can see the consequences,” he continued.
Erekat also noted “Since 2004, over 11,000 settler attacks have taken place against Palestinian homes, cars, churches, mosques, trees and others with full impunity.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the killing in a series of tweets this morning stating, “This is an act of terrorism in every respect. The State of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of the perpetrators.”
Seeking to calm tensions, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin will visit the wounded this afternoon, and he released a statement to the Arab public this morning.
“I feel a sense of shame, and moreover a sense of pain. Pain over the murder of a small baby. Pain that from my people, there are those who have chosen the path of terrorism, and have lost their humanity. Their path is not my path,” the president said.
Rivlin also called on all parties to “join together” and “allow police to do their work.” Yet the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem is skeptical that the authorities will bring charges against the attackers. In a statement released today B’Tselem said over the past three years Israeli settlers have burned nine Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Of those nine crimes, no charges were brought against the culprits, which they say conditions a culture of impunity for settler arsonists and killers.
“Official condemnations of this attack are empty rhetoric as long as politicians continue their policy of avoiding enforcement of the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians, and do not deal with the public climate and the incitement which serve is backdrop to these acts,” B’Tselem said.
Slightly more than a year ago three Israelis abducted and 16-year old Mohammed Abu Khdeir from outside his Jerusalem home and then burned him alive. The killing initiated a wave of attacks, contributing to a volatile atmosphere across Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem marked by clashes that were described often as the “Jerusalem Intifada” in media reports. The three Israelis who confessed to the crime are now on trial for murder.