Netanyahu Condemns Fatal West Bank Arson Attack, Calling It 'Terrorism'

Israeli PM tells Palestinian President Abbas that 'it's upon us to together fight terror, no matter which side perpetrates it.'

AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed "shock and horror" at an arson attack in the West Bank early Friday morning that killed a Palestinian infant and gravely wounded three family members, as violence broke out in response to the attack.

Netanyahu called the killing of 18-month-old Ali Sa'ad Dawabsheh a terror attack, saying it was "a reprehensible and horrific act of terrorism in every respect. The State of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are."

In a phone call to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Netanyahu said that everyone in Israel is shocked by the attack, adding: "it's upon us to together fight terrorism, no matter which side perpetrates it."

On Friday afternoon, the prime minister visited Ali Sa'ad Dawabsheh's four-year-old brother, Ahmed, and his mother, Reham, who are being treated for their serious injuries at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. He promised to provide the best medical care possible for them. 

"It’s hard when you stand next to the bed of a sweet child like him," said Netanyahu. "You ask, 'What was this terrible act committed for'?" "Terror is terror, and we must fight it in every place..., and we will catch these murderers," Netanyahu said, vowing to use all means available to "bring them to justice."  

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin also visited Ahmed Dawabsheh in hospital, saying: "What we demand of our neighbors, from those with whom we fight, from those who have been our enemies for over a century – to bring an end to terrorism – we must also demand of ourselves.” 

I am shocked by the murder of Ali Dawabshe. This is a reprehensible and horrific act of terrorism in every respect. pic.twitter.com/m9JXsk7YHg

Netanyahu also spoke Friday with representatives from the defense establishment, talking with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai. "I have ordered the security forces to use all means at their disposal to apprehend the murderers and bring them to justice forthwith," Netanyahu said.

"The government of Israel is unified in its vehement objection to such horrible and base acts. In the name of Israel's citizens, I wish to send my condolences to Ali Sa'ad Dawabsheh's family and wish them a speedy recovery."

Damage to home in the West Bank village of Doma after an arson attack killed an 18-month-old Palestinian boy, July 31, 2015. (Reuters)

'Crime against humanity'

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it holds Israel responsible for what the Palestinian president called a "crime against humanity". Abbas said the PA would ask the International Criminal Court to look into the arson.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas' spokesman, said such an incident wouldn't have happened if Israel's government hadn't insisted on continued settlement construction and offered protection to the settlements.

"We will no longer accept emtpy verbal condemnations of such horrible crimes by the international community; we demand operative steps to bring about an end to the occupation and see its criminals brought to justice," Abu Rudeineh said in statement, drawing a parallel between the latest incident and that of Mohammed Abu Khdeir – the Palestinian teen who was burned to death last summer in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in the West Bank.

"This is the consequence of a culture of hate funded and incentivized by the Israeli government and the impunity granted by the international community," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement.


President Reuven Rivlin also condemned the murder, reaching out to the Israeli Arab and Palestinian populations through Arabic media, and expressing his "disgust and deep shock" at what a statement from his office called an "arson terror attack."

“At these painful moments, I turn to the Arab citizens of Israel, and the Palestinian people, to all law abiding citizens, and ask that you do not succumb to the shock and anger. This is a time to join together," a statement from Rivlin said.

Lt. Gen. Eisenkot said he views the incident with the utmost severity and was currently convening top IDF officials to prevent any escalation in the West Bank. Maj. Gen. Mordechai spoke with senior Palestinian officials and reiterated Israel's condemnation of the event, informing them defense forces were searching for the killers and would bring them to justice.

Hamas responded to the murder, and called for a "day of rage" at the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Condemnations from across political spectrum

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon also labeled the attack as terror, saying the "arson and murder of Palestinian baby Ali Sa'ad Dawabsheh is a terrorist attack that we cannot suffer, and we unequivocally condemn it. At this time, defense forces – the IDF, Shin Bet security service and police – are making every effort to apprehend the murderers and will not rest until they are caught."

Ya'alon stressed that Israel will not allow "Jewish terrorists to harm Palestinians in the West Bank."

Education Minister Naftali Bennett also condemned the incident, saying it was "not a hate crime or 'price tag.' It is murder. And the murder of a baby is a horrendous act of terror that cannot be accepted. I call on the defense forces to work ceaselessly to apprehend the murderers and let them face the full extent of justice."

The Yesha Council of settlements also condemned the attack, expressing "outrage and distress at the horrible murder in the village of Douma. As the leaders of the Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria we wish to express our support for defense forces as they chase the criminals and hope they will be apprehended and brought to justice. This is not the way of the residents of Judea and Samaria," the settler group said.