Israel's Top Court Rejects Appeal by Youth Convicted in 2015 Arson Attack on Palestinian Family

The appellant, who was a minor at the time, was convicted of involvement in the 2015 attack that killed three members of the Dawabsheh family in the West Bank village of Duma

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Ahmad Dawabsheh in 2020 holding a picture of his family.
Ahmad Dawabsheh in 2020 holding a picture of his family.Credit: Issam Rimawi / Anadolu Agency
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Thursday by an Israeli convicted in the 2015 firebombing attack on a Palestinian family in the West Bank that killed three people including an infant.

The young man was a minor at the time of the attack in the village of Duma that killed Sa’ad and Reham Dawabsheh and their 18-month-old son Ali. For his role in planning the crime, the suspect was convicted last September of membership in a terror group, conspiracy to commit a racially-motivated crime, and racially-motivated arson and vandalism. He appealed both the conviction and his three-and-half-year sentence.

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“The patterns of behavior of the appellant and his comrades are no different from those of other terrorist organizations that seek to advance a new political and social agenda in accordance with their worldview by engaging in violent acts against the public,” Justice Yosef Elron wrote in the court's ruling. "Membership in these groups and organizations requires a deterrent and tangible punishment.”

The appeal questioned the prosecution's claim that the appellant was part of a terrorist group “with an organized and ongoing structure,” as required by Israel's Counter-Terrorism Law. It also claimed that investigators unlawfully coerced a partial confession by staging a stabbing incident in the suspect's prison cell while he was being illegally detained with adults despite being a minor at the time.

The appellant at the court in Lod in 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The state, however, defended the investigators and the Shin Bet security service, saying that proper protocol had been maintained. The state claimed that the fake stabbing had been approved by the state prosecutor and was "proportionate and balanced."

“The district court noted that during the interrogation exercise no external pressure was exerted on the appellant to a level that compelled him to break his silence against his free will,” Justice Elron said in rejecting the appeal.

As for the claim that the pressure put on the suspect “crossed a red line,” Elron said that “even if I accepted the claim, what he told the interrogators before the stabbing incident was enough to substantiate his conviction as a member of a terrorist organization.”

The Central District Court in Lod convicted the young Israeli for his involvement in the Duma firebombing and other hate crimes including setting fire to a warehouse and vandalizing property in the village of Aqraba, setting fire to a taxi and painting graffiti in the village of Yasuf, and slashing tires in Jerusalem's Beit Safafa neighborhood.

He was not in Duma on the night of the attack and was not charged with murder but rather with conspiracy to commit a crime.

Amiram Ben Uliel, who was convicted of three counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder in the attack, mentioned the appellant by name in his confession.

Ben Uliel is serving three life sentences plus 17 years for the attempted murder of Ali's older brother, Ahmed, who was 4 at the time, and an additional 10 years for arson.

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