AN 18-MONTH-OLD boy was burned to death when suspected Jewish assailants set fire to two Palestinian homes in a West Bank village, an attack that also critically wounded the child’s four-year-old brother and parents and outraged both Israelis and Palestinians.
The attack yesterday threatened to set off another violent escalation and further stirred Palestinian fears that Israel allows attacks by militant Jewish settlers in the West Bank to go unpunished, though Israel says it does its best to track down those responsible.
Palestinian officials blamed Israel for the attack while Israeli the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the incident a “terror attack”.
According to the Israeli military, the suspects entered the village of Duma, near Nablus, where they set the homes ablaze and scrawled graffiti in Hebrew, including “Long live the Messiah,” “revenge” and “price tag” and then fled the scene. The so-called “price tag” attacks have been used by Jewish settlers for years to exact a price on any Israeli steps they see as favouring the Palestinians.
Earlier this week the High Court in Israel ordered the demolition of two settlement buildings under construction in the West Bank, ruling them illegal.
The dead child was identified as Ali Dawabsheh. His four-year-old brother Ahmad, father Saed and mother Riham were seriously hurt, said a Palestinian official. He said Jewish settlers broke the window of a house and flung a fire bomb inside, “causing a quick and huge” blaze. The Israeli military said three people were critically wounded and one slightly injured. The critically wounded were taken to Israeli hospitals for treatment, the military said. Lee Gat, a spokeswoman for Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv, said Riham had life-threatening burns over 90 per cent of her body while son Ahmad had burns over 60 per cent of his body.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas called the incident a “war crime” and said it would be part of the Palestinians’ case against Israel at the International Criminal Court. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called the incident a “brutal assassination”
“This is a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to settler terrorism,” he said. “This is the consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivised by the Israeli government and the impunity granted by the international community.”
The attack caused tensions to boil over and protesters in the West Bank city of Hebron clashed with Israeli security forces at a previously planned demonstration. Israeli police limited entrance to Friday prayers at a Jerusalem mosque to men over 50, with no restrictions on women. The prayers passed without incident, the police later said.
Jewish extremists have for years attacked Palestinian property, mosques, churches and even Israeli military bases in opposition to what they see as the Israeli government’s favourable policies toward the Palestinians.