Israeli Murderer of Palestinian Family Gets Three Consecutive Life Sentences

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18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh (top L), who was killed after his family's West Bank house was set to fire in a attack by Jewish extremists, July 31, 2015.
18-month-old Palestinian baby Ali Dawabsheh (top L), who was killed after his family's West Bank house was set to fire in a attack by Jewish extremists, July 31, 2015. Credit: Majdi Mohammed / AP

An Israeli convicted of murder in the 2015 killing of three members of a Palestinian family, including an infant, with a firebomb, was sentenced on Monday to three life sentences plus 17 years in prison for attempted murder and additional 10 years for arson. 

The Dawabsheh family’s home in the West Bank village of Duma, south of Nablus, was torched in the night of July 30, 2015. Sa'ad and Reham Dawabsheh and their 18-months-old child Ali all died in the fire or following injuries; only Ali's older brother, Ahmad, who was four at the time, survived, despite sustaining severe burns.

Amiram Ben-Uliel was convicted of three counts of murder, and two counts of attempted murder in May 2020, in a ruling that the Shin Bet internal security service called "an important milestone in the battle against Jewish terror."  

Ben-Uliel, who was 20 at the time, comes from a family of West Bank settlers, and is a known Jewish extremist. The Lod District Court acquitted him of being a member of a terror organization.

Last year the court struck a plea bargain with a minor charged with involvement in planning the crime. He was later convicted of being a member of a terror organization and is expected to receive his sentence on Wednesday.

Amiram Ben-Uliel in court, September 2020. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Follwing the sentencing, Reham's father Hussein Dawabsheh, who is also the guardian of his grandson Ahmad, the sole survivor of the fire, noted that "the sentence will not return anything." He gave a recent example of Ahmad trying to wear a protective mask against the coronavirus and not being able to, as he lost his ear during the fire. "Why did they do this to me, Why am I not like all other children?" Hussein quoted his grandson asking him. 

Ben-Uliel's wife, Orian, said: "The judges did not seek justice and truth, they decided to convict my husband at all costs, despite all the evidence showing that my husband did not do it ... we are now preparing for the Supreme [Court], I do not know how the judges sleep at night, what can be called judges. The killers roam free."

Arab-majority Joint List MK Osama Saadi said "No maximum punishment can reverse the despicable murder of the Dawabsheh family, the despicable killer burned the family alive. We can not separate this from racism and occupation." Another Joint List MK, Yousef Jabareen, also said "we know that there are many more murderers among settlers who roam free ... [This sentence] does not cleanse those who incite and deepen the settlement project. The real victory will be only with the end of the occupation."

The stretched out legal proceedings created controversy in Israel, not only due to the graphic nature of the attack, but also issues with the ways in which multiple confessions by the suspects were obtained by interrogators.

One of Ben-Uliel's attorneys, Itzhak Bam, said after the sentencing that "Amiram's fate was sealed when the court accepted as evidence the confession and reenactment [that were obtained] following torture."

Earlier this year, Ben-Uliel's lawyers said their client should be acquitted, arguing that there were inconsistencies between interviews the sole survivor Ahmed had given to the media, and the indictement. The Central District Court refused to vacate the conviction.

Ben-Uliel has confessed to his crimes three times, but the court ruled one of his confessions to be inadmissible because it had been extracted under torture, and struck down another. The court, however, accepted the third confession, which included a detailed reconstruction of the murder.       

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