Outrage Spreads After Palestinian Infant Killed in Arson Attack in Occupied West Bank
Killing of 18-month-old boy and injuries to his family called 'consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivized by the Israeli government' and tolerated by international community
Outrage is rippling across the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and beyond on Friday as news spreads that an 18-month-old infant was killed and his family members severely injured after Israeli settlers allegedly firebombed their home overnight.
The infant, identified in various media outlets as Ali Saad Dawabsha, reportedly died at the scene of the fire while his family members—mother, Reham, father, Saad, and four-year-old brother, Ahmad—were airlifted to an Israeli hospital with serious injuries. The Palestinian family's home was apparently one of two houses targeted in the village of Duma by still unknown assailants who scribbled the Hebrew word for 'revenge' beneath a Star of David on an outside wall.
Ibrahim Dawabsheh, a Duma resident, told Reuters he heard people shouting for help from the house and rushed to it. "I saw two masked men outside," he said, but after going to get help and returning they had gone.
"We cannot separate the barbaric attack that took place in Duma last night from the recent settlement approvals by the Israeli government, a government which represents an Israeli national coalition for settlements and apartheid." —Saeb Erekat, Palestinian Authority
"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," Dawabsheh said.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized the violence as a "terrorist attack" and said "all means" would be used to bring the perpetrators to justice, rights groups joined many Palestinians in dismissing such statements as little more than rhetoric, especially amid ongoing settlement expansion sanctioned by his government and the increased displacement of those living under the occupation.
Palestinian chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Palestinian Authority is holding the Israeli government "fully responsible" for the violence—thought to be a possible example of what are known as "price tag" attacks, usually carried out as a form of retribution by illegal settlers in response to curbs on settlement expansion.
"We cannot separate the barbaric attack that took place in Duma last night from the recent settlement approvals by the Israeli government, a government which represents an Israeli national coalition for settlements and apartheid," said Erekat.
The killing of the young boy and the injuries to his family, Erekat continued, "is the consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivized by the Israeli government and the impunity granted by the international community."
PA President Mahmoud Abbas later said he would appeal to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the arson attack and called on the United States and other governments to condemn the Israeli government for its ongoing policies in the West Bank.
"We are immediately preparing the file that will be submitted to the ICC," Abbas told reporters as he also denounced the "war crimes and crimes against humanity committed each day by Israelis against the Palestinian people."
Taking a more hardline stance, Hamas responded by declaring that what happened in Duma makes all "Israeli soldiers and settlers legitimate targets for resistance." A spokesperson, Hussam Badran, called for popular action and said Israeli crimes can only be stopped by "comprehensive resistance in all its forms."
Additionally, the Ma'an news agency reports that Popular Resistance Committees are now calling for a "revolution of anger" across cities, villages and streets in Palestine; while the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has called on Palestinians to "escalate resistance" against Israel and urged the Palestinian leadership to declare a state of emergency.
According to Haaretz, Israeli security officials expressed concern that the killing of Dawabsha "could spark unrest in the West Bank, and fear of rioting and disorder at Temple Mount in Jerusalem prompted restrictions on Muslim worshiper, with only those over 50 being permitted to enter the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque. Firebombs and stones were reportedly thrown in Jerusalem's Old City, wounding one officer lightly in the early afternoon and massive police forces were being stationed in the area."
Meanwhile, the Israeli rights group B'Tselem said in a statement that it was "only a matter of time" until tragedies like this one took place, given the behavior of settlers in the Occupied Territories and the continued tolerance and support they receive from the Israel government. Impunity for hate crimes, the group said, only "encourages assailants to continue, leading to this morning's horrific result."
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there have been 120 incidents of "settler-related violence" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem so far in 2015, including 78 assaults against property and 42 attacks that resulted in injuries.
As B'Tselem points out, a vast majority of these cases were never solved, and in many of them the Israeli Police did not even bother take elementary investigative actions.
The group called condemnations of the attack from Netanyahu or other Israeli officials "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 as backdrop to these acts."