The Israel Defense Forces said on Saturday it fears that the arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists that killed an 18-month-old toddler in the West Bank on Friday morning will lead to an escalation among the Palestinian community.
- Palestinian Baby’s Murder Won’t Change a Thing
- Thousands Across Israel Protest Violence, Incitement
- Family of Slain Infant Clings to Life Amid West Bank Clashes
- EU, State Dept. Condemn Deadly West Bank Arson Attack
In response to the attack, which the IDF labeled “Jewish terror” and led to worldwide condemnation, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon told the Shin Bet security service he will support the administrative detention of right-wing activists suspected of involvement in terror attacks against Palestinians, where there isn’t yet enough evidence for indictments.
Ya'alon routinely approves orders to expel extremist settlers suspected of violence from the West Bank, but believes that the most recent terror attack warrants harsher measures.
Israeli security services are working closely with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank to prevent an escalation following the deadly attack, but two Palestinian teenagers were killed on Friday by IDF troops during subsequent clashes.
At about 4 A.M. on Friday morning, apparently two masked men arrived at two homes in the village of Duma, near the settlement of Migdalim. They spray-painted graffiti reading “revenge” and “Long live the Messiah” in Hebrew, breaking the windows of the homes and throwing two firebombs inside. One of the homes was empty at the time, but there was a family in the second: 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh, 4-year-old Ahmed, their father Sa’ad and mother Reham. While the parents exited the building and a family member rushed in for Ahmed, the flames spread too quickly to return for Ali.
Local resident Mesalem Dawabsheh, 23, said he saw four settlers fleeing the scene, with several local residents following in pursuit. According to Dawabsheh, the settlers fled toward the settlement of Ma’aleh Efraim. He added that other witnesses saw the settlers smash the windows of the house before throwing firebombs inside.
Reham and Ahmed Dawabsheh were taken to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, in critical condition. Sa’ad Dawabsheh was taken to Soroka Hospital, Be’er Sheva, also in critical condition. All three remained in critical condition on Saturday night. Reham is suffering third-degree burns on 90 percent of her body and is on life support; Ahmed suffered second-degree burns to over 60 percent of his body; and Sa’ad suffered severe second-degree burns on over 80 percent of his body and is also on life support.
IDF Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Moti Almoz, said he could not recall “such a severe act of this magnitude in recent years, which included entering a home and setting it on fire – it’s clear there will be ramifications.”
Defense officials believe that the Palestinian Authority is making efforts to prevent a widespread wave of violence. They are primarily concerned about acts of revenge by groups including Hamas and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which have threatened to carry out terror attacks. Another concern is over attacks perpetrated by individuals.
A senior defense official told Haaretz he wouldn’t be surprised if there was a connection between the demolition of two illegal structures in Beit El last Wednesday and the fatal attack in Duma. The official accused government ministers of “distributing false propaganda” regarding the legal circumstances surrounding the IDF’s demolition of the so-called Dreinoff buildings at the settlement.
“The settler media outlets have turned these two empty buildings into the Temple Mount,” added the official.