A Palestinian home was set on fire Wednesday night in the village of Sinjil, northeast of Ramallah in the West Bank, in a suspected "price tag" attack. Five Palestinians residing there suffered from smoke inhalation.
“Regards from Eden, Revenge” was sprayed on one of the walls of the house, indicating that the act may have been carried out to avenge the murder of Private Eden Attias, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian teen on a bus earlier Wednesday.
A 16-year-old Palestinian from a village in the Jenin area was arrested following the attack on the soldier and said in his interrogation that the act was revenge for the arrest in Israel of two of his relatives, who were sentenced to life imprisonment 10 years ago for murder and attempted murder during the second intifada. According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club, the two were active in the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military arm of Fatah.
Following the overnight arson attack in Sinjil, the Israeli military said it considers incidents of this kind serious and that they undermine security in the region.
About a month ago in the village of Burqa, east of Ramallah, security forces found three vehicles that were set on fire and a graffiti slogan that was sprayed on the wall of a mosque: “The Redemption of Zion loves Tomer Hazan,” in reference to an Israeli soldier who was abducted and murdered in Samaria. The villagers claimed that there had been an escalation in the belligerence of the settlers, including damage to property and orchards. Many of them expressed a fear that they would be unable to harvest their olive groves due to the activities likely to be carried out against them.
In early October, 14 minors aged 13-16 were arrested by the Central Unit of the Jerusalem police, on suspicion that they were operating as an organized squad that perpetrated nationalist crimes against Arabs in the city. The police reported that the boys said they would organize observations in an attempt to identify Arab pedestrians and Arab drivers of buses and private cars, and when they stopped at a traffic light “they would signal to their friends, who would throw stones at them or open the door of the vehicle, spit or attack the drivers.” The boys admitted that they had punctured car tires and set fire to a car in Sheikh Jarrah. The police counted 20 incidents in which the suspects are involved, but estimated that the number is higher.
Meanwhile, two rockets were fired toward Israel on Thursday morning. The mortar shells exploded in open areas near the border fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip. No damage or injuries were reported.
In response to the rocket fire, the Israeli Air Force struck two targets in the northern Gaza Strip. An Israeli military statement said the targets were two concealed rocket launchers. Palestinian witnesses said empty fields were hit and no one was injured.
Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabri, which launched Operation Pillar of Defense.
'Everyone is responsible'
Khaled Dar Khaled, the owner of the house that was torched in Sinjil, told Haaretz on Thursday that the arson was carried out by four people, whom he claimed were settlers. According to his account of the events, three of the four approached his house at the edge of the village, spilled flammable liquid inside and set it alight.
"They spray-painted slogans in revenge for Eden," an apparent reference to the Israeli soldier Eden Attias, "and then lit the fire. They knew everyone would be sleeping inside at the time, which means it was [attempted] premeditated murder," Khaled said.
"The smoke was very thick," he said, adding that he and his wife managed to flee to the roof of the house. "Under the pressure, I forgot one of the girls in the house. I went back and got her out. She had inhaled large amounts of smoke and is still in hospital."
The man's wife, Ruada Bar Khalil, said she got up at 2 A.M. to prepare food for their one-and-a-half year old child and spotted a vehicle stopping in front of the house. She said four people got out of the vehicle, broke windows with rocks, poured gasoline at the site and lit it. She said she could not open the metal door to the home because it had melted from the heat.
"I was on the roof for half an hour until the flames were put out," she said. "We choked on the smoke and they (emergency services) gave us oxygen. The Israeli army only came at 8 A.M. I want them to catch [the perpetrators] who tried to burn us alive." Khaled's home is at the entrance to Sinjil, about 200 meters from a main highway and near an Israel Defense Forces armored corps battalion's base.
Khaled said that settlers have harassed him and his family of five young children for an extended period of time. "My house is one of four at the edge of the village, so we have turned into a target. In the past there were incidents of harassment involving broken windows and [other] vandalism."
If the IDF wanted to, it could prevent such attacks, Khaled claimed, alleging that "everything is coordinated or done while [the authorities] look the other way. There are [security] cameras in the area, which is under Israeli security responsibility and they're always telling us they don't know who did it. This time we were saved [but] half of our house was destroyed. I don't know what will happen next time if they don't deal with [the assailants]. And from my perspective, everyone is responsible—Israel and the [Palestinian] Authority, which appears helpless in the face of this aggression."