Relative of Arson Attack Victims: I Saw Two Masked Men Standing by as They Burned

Ibrahim Dawabsheh describes his attempts to rescue the victims of the arson terror attack on a West Bank home, and how, while four-year-old Ahmed Dawabsheh could be rescued, his baby brother Ali could not.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A man shows a picture of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha who died when his family house was set on fire by Jewish extremists in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015.
A man shows a picture of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha who died when his family house was set on fire by Jewish extremists in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. Credit: AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A relative of the Dawabsheh family, whose house was torched early Friday in a terror attack that killed 18-month old Ali Sa'ad Dawabsheh, has told Haaretz that he saw two masked men standing next to the infant’s parents as they lay burning on the ground outside their home.

Ibrahim Mohammed Dawabsheh, is a relative and neighbor of the family. He told Haaretz how he ran to the burning house at 2 A.M. on Friday when he heard Sa'ad Dawabsheh, Ali’s father, crying for help.

Ibrahim, who is in his twenties, says that he was awake talking to his fiancée over the phone. The rest of the household was asleep. Suddenly he heard screaming from the Dawabsheh’s house, which is 20 meters from his own. He managed to wake up his father and brother, and ran towards the screaming.

“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.

When Ibrahim returned to the torched house he saw that Sa'ad was unconscious. Ibrahim roused him and tried to extinguish the flames with his bare hands but was unsuccessful. He raised him on his feet and pulled him towards the house.

“He told me to go and get his wife. I didn’t think of anything, of the possibility that my clothes might catch on fire,” he said. On the way, other family members took Sa'ad from him and he ran back to Reham who was unclothed, with a burning blanket stuck to her back. Glass from a shattered neon light was also stuck to her skin. She was also unconscious and Ibrahim roused her as well, telling her that he was her brother in order to calm her down. She said that her son Ahmed was inside and he promised to get him out right away. He led her to his family’s yard, where his father took hold of her, leading her inside in order to cover her. She was bleeding.

Ibrahim ran back to Reham’s house and managed to extricate four-year-old Ahmed, whose leg was burning. Then he heard everyone talking about baby Ali, one-and-a-half years old, who was sleeping on the bedroom floor. People were bringing water in order to douse the flames but they spread so that it was impossible to enter the house and get the baby out. Palestinian firefighters arrived after forty minutes from the village of Burin. They found Ali’s charred body inside.

Sa'ad 30, is a construction worker, currently working at the settlement of Nofim. Reham is 27, a mathematics teacher at a high school in Kafr Kusra.

With no ambulances to be found Sa'ad had to be rushed to the hospital in a trunk

Douma doesn't have an ambulance. The family decided not to wait for an ambulance to come in from Aqraba or from Nablus, and to rush the couple and their son to the hospital in their car. Sa'ad wasn't able to sit, so the separation between the back seat and the trunk was lowered and Sa'ad was placed to lie in the trunk, while Reham lay across the back seat. The son Ahmed was taken in another car.

Two ambulances waited in Tapuach Junction. On the way Reham whispered to Hanin, Ibrahim's sister, that someone had thrown something through the bedroom window, which set the room ablaze.

Reham and family spent the evening at her father's house nearby. Sa'ad had gone home to sleep early as he was supposed to wake up early in the morning for work the next day. Reham got home at approximately 1:30 A.M. When the fire began she was still trying to fall asleep.

After Reham escaped the burning house wrapped in a burning blanket, her relatives said, she tried to go back into the house to save the boys but couldn't.

By the burning home parked Sa'ad's car. The family broke one of the windows, took down the handbrake and pushed the car way so that it wouldn't catch fire too. Sa'ad's brother Nasser told Haaretz that his brother was still making payments on the car. He bought it so he could get to his work in the settlements. Near this small house (2.5 rooms) he began building a second house, but stopped because he was unable to fund the construction.

The residents of the other torched home were in Nablus.

Mamun Doabasa, who owns the neighboring house, which was also torched, spent the night along with his wife and five children in Nablus. A fire bomb was thrown into the children's bedroom. "Revenge" and "Long live the king messiah" were spray painted on the side of their house and a wall in the yard. Doabasa works as a construction worker in Israel. About a quarter of the town's men, a town with a population of about 3,000, work in Israel or the settlements, according to the residents. Ibrahim Dawabsheh, for example works construction in the settlement Shilo. Other family members raise cattle.

The houses burned aren't in the outskirts of the town where it is easy to make a getaway.

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