After Jerusalem Gay Pride Stabbing, Suspected Extremists Burn Palestinian Child to Death
DUMA, West Bank -- Suspected Jewish assailants set fire to a West Bank home on Friday and burned a sleeping Palestinian toddler to death in an attack that drew Palestinian rage and widespread Israeli condemnation. The attack, which threatens to set off another violent escalation, shines a light on the growing lawlessness of extremist Jewish settlers that Israel is either unable or unwilling to contain.
The extremists have for years staged attacks against Palestinian property, as well as mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases. The attacks, known as "price tags" because they exact a price for Israeli steps seen as favorable to the Palestinians, have stirred fear in Palestinians and frustration among critics who say Israel has not done enough to quell the assaults.
"This is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to settler terrorism," said Palestinian official Saeb Erekat. "This is the consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivized by the Israeli government and the impunity granted by the international community."
Friday's deadly attack comes as part of a larger trend of Jewish radicalization - one day after an anti-gay ultra-Orthodox extremist stabbed revelers at Jerusalem's Gay Pride Parade and two days after Israeli authorities indicted two young Jewish activists for an arson attack on a famous Holy Land church. All have been strongly condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, though the recent spate of attacks has raised fears that a radicalized and violent ultraconservative fringe is growing from within the country's hard-line national-religious camp.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the attack a "war crime" and said the Palestinians would present it to the International Criminal Court as part of their case against Israel.
The extremist attacks, which most recently struck a famous church in northern Israel, have rarely caused fatal injuries, which made Friday's incident, in which 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was killed and his parents and 4-year-old brother critically wounded, all the more worrying.
Witnesses and the Israeli military said that under cover of darkness, the attackers broke the windows of the family's home in Duma, a small village near the West Bank city of Nablus. They lobbed a fire bomb into the sleeping family's bedroom which exploded into a fireball that quickly consumed the home.
The suspects, who fled the scene, scribbled graffiti on the walls reading "Long live the Messiah," `'revenge" and "price tag," as well as a Jewish star of David. The military said they were searching for the assailants.
Riham Dawabsheh, the boy's mother, ran out of the house as she was engulfed by flames and a neighbor, Mohammed Ibrahim Dawabsheh, said he covered her in a sheet to try to extinguish the flames. She, as well as her husband Saed and son Ahmad, were taken to an Israeli hospital for treatment, where they remained in critical condition with severe burn wounds.
Duma residents blamed the incident on Israeli refusal to confront settler violence.
"We have no protection," said Abdel Haleem Dawabsheh, a teacher from Duma, who like Mohammed Dawabsheh is a member of the same clan as the victims. "Settlers burned mosques, cars, trees, attacked people in our village and in the nearby villages but nothing happened to them."
Israel says it does its best to track down the assailants and has launched recent drives to crack down on the "price tag" phenomenon. In the case of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes arson in June, it arrested two suspects that belonged to an extremist settler youth group.
But critics say Israel doesn't enforce the law when it comes to settlers because of the political power that the settlers wield in parliament and because they are still perceived in some circles as Zionist pioneers who are settling the land like the vanguards who established the Jewish state.
"This policy creates impunity for hate crimes, and encourages assailants to continue, leading to this morning's horrific result," Israeli rights group B'Tselem said in a statement.
The group said that in the past three years, Israeli civilians set fire to nine Palestinian homes in the West Bank and flung a fire bomb at a Palestinian taxi. It said no one was charged in any of the cases.