Shin Bet: Several Israelis Arrested for West Bank Arson Murders

Weeks-long gag order partially lifted: Suspects are 'young people suspected Jewish terrorist carrying out terrorist acts;' outgoing police chief Benzi Sau said this week that he was 'very optimistic' about progress.

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Palestinian women look at the damage at the Dawabsheh family's home in the West Bank village of Duma, August 4, 2015.
Palestinian women look at the damage at the Dawabsheh family's home in the West Bank village of Duma, August 4, 2015.Credit: AFP

A number of Israeli youths were arrested for the arson attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family last summer. The arrests were revealed after a gag order was partially lifted.

Ali Dawabsheh, aged 18 months, was burned to death after firebombs were thrown into his home in the West Bank village of Duma, in late July. His father, Sa’ad Dawabsheh, died eight days later, while his mother, Reham Dawabsheh, died in early September, both in Israeli hospitals. The couple’s 4-year-old son remains hospitalized. The slogans “revenge” and “long live the Messiah” were spray-painted in Hebrew on the walls of the burned house.

According to the Shin Bet, several Israeli youths were detained for questioning in recent days over their connection to Jewish extremist organizations.

The investigation is being handled by the Israel Police, the State's Attorney's Office, and the Ministry of Public Security. Other details of the investigation, including the identity of the detainees remain under a gag order.

Hussain Dawabsheh, the grandfather of the victims' family who is staying by his grandson Ahmed's bed, said that the news of the arrests doesn't mean much to the family. "We don't know what it will lead up to. I hope it wil really lead to the solving of this heinous murder and crime," he said. Nasser Dawabsheh, Hussain's sonand brother of Sa'id the family's father, said the family is following the developments because "a reason for the criminals to go free will always be found."

Attorney Chai Habber, who is representing one of the suspects, said "After eight days in which my client has been held without seeing his lawyer or his family, or even a judge, the state, which claims to be democratic but permits people to be "disappeared" without any oversight, has made the arrest public." Habber stressed that he "believes that as the picture becomes clearer, it will become clear that the authorities claims that some kind of an advance in the case has been made is baseless."

Attorney Adi Kedar, who is representing some of the suspects, said "During the last week, the State of Israel through the actions of its law enforcement bodies, the Shin Bet, the police, the State's Attorney's Office, and the courts too, have colluded and all week have violated the law and human rights extensively, while legitimizing any and all misdeeds." According to him "Once the gag order is fully lifted, regardless of what the investigation uncovers the picture that the public will see will cause much concern with regard to the activities of the it law enforcement and legal system."

Outgoing Israel Police commissioner Bentzi Sau told Haaretz Tuesday he was highly confident that the Dawabsheh family murders would be solved, telling Haaretz that the case was a very high priority for police.

In September, Israel's defense establishment identified suspects in the Duma arson attack, but at the time did not file charges, the attorney general said at the time. Three Jewish suspects were put under administrative detention following the attack.

The IDF described the incident as "Jewish terrorism." At Ya’alon's request following the attack, the political-security cabinet approved the use of administrative detention against suspected Jewish terrorists. Such practice is commonly used against Palestinians suspected of terror activities.

Three Jewish suspects are currently being held without trial for terrorist activities: Meir Ettinger, who according to the Shin Bet headed an extreme rightist organization intent on toppling the Israeli government though violent means, and encouraged others to carry out terrorist acts; Mordechai Meyer, the alleged arsonist behind a fire at Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem; and Eviatar Slonim, accused of setting fire to a home in the Palestinian town of Khirbet Abu Falah.

None of these names has been explicitly tied publicly to the attack on the Dawabsheh family home in Duma.

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