Home of Key Witness in Duma Arson-murder Catches Fire

Police say findings appear to rule out deliberate arson by Jews; Home of Ibrahim Dawabsheh reportedly targeted, human rights group says, months after he witnessed his relatives being killed in a firebomb attack.

Palestinian police member inspects the damage inside a burnt-out house belonging to a key witness to an arson attack at Palestinian village of Duma, months after deadly attack. March 20, 2016. AFP

A fire on Sunday in the West Bank village of Duma damaged the house of a key witness to a deadly arson attack there last summer, which killed three members of a Palestinian family.

Police said they do not suspect any nationalist motive behind Sunday's fire, pointing at findings from the scene that don't indicate Jewish involvement. But details of the investigation were under gag-order.

Arson suspected at Palestinian village of Duma, months after deadly attack. March 20, 2016. Rabbis for Human Rights

In Sunday's fire a Palestinian relative of the slain Dawabsheh family, was very lightly wounded from smoke inhalation. The house only sustained partial damage and there were no slogans daubed nearby that are more typical of attacks by Jewish extremists.

Arson suspected at Palestinian village of Duma, months after deadly attack. March 20, 2016.Rabbis for Human Rights

Rabbis for Human Rights' field researcher Zacharia Sadeh, who first reported Sunday's incident, said the house that caught fire belonged to Ibrahim Dawabsheh, a relative and neighbor to the slain Dawabshehs who witnessed parts of the July 2015 attack.

Sadeh said Ibrahim Dawabsheh had said that he and his wife fled the house as it caught fire after they heard glass breaking, followed by an explosion.

Palestinian women look at the damage at the Dawabsheh family's home in the West Bank village of Duma, August 4, 2015.AFP

Ibrahim Dawabsheh and his wife were treated at a hospital in Nablus for smoke inhalation, sources in Duma said.

A Palestinian Authority official in charge of monitoring settler activities said two firebombs were thrown into the house, which caught fire within seconds. 

Family members said the house that caught fire is only dozens of meters away from the home of Sa'ad and Reham Dawabsheh, who were killed together with their 18-month-old son, Ali, in the suspected arson attack on their home for which two Jewish suspects have been charged. 

Amiram Ben-Uliel.

The couple's four-year-old child, Ahmed, survived.

The suspects in the July Duma arson are Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old from Jerusalem,  charged on three counts of murder, and for attempted murder for a failed attempt to set another house on fire. 

An accessory to murder charge was filed against a minor who is suspected of participating in the incident, while two others were charged with violence against Palestinians.

Speaking to Haaretz at the time of the deadly fire, Ibrahim Dawabsheh recalled how he ran to the burning house that fateful night after hearing Sa'ad Dawabsheh, Ali’s father, crying for help.

“I saw Sa'ad and Reham burning on the ground. Next to them were two masked men, one beside each of them. They were dressed in jeans and black long-sleeved shirts,” he told Haaretz.

“Their faces were covered with a balaclava, with only the mouth and eyes visible. The street light  shone directly on them. I was horrified by what I saw. They saw me and I was frightened and ran back home. I told my brother Bishar to get help and returned to Sa'ad’s house where I no longer saw the two masked men” said Ibrahim, adding that they were unarmed.