Police: Three Jaffa Arabs Sought to Firebomb Jews' Homes, Accidentally Wounding Arab Boy

Israel Police and Shin Bet security service consider incident a terrorist act, and say the suspects wanted to avenge the clashes in Jerusalem and Lod

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The Jaffa home attacked with a firebomb last week.
The Jaffa home attacked with a firebomb last week.Credit: אורן זיו

The police are seeking to charge three suspects in the firebombing of a home in Jaffa last month with racially motivated attempted murder and arson.

Police say the suspects, who are Arab, mistakenly believed the inhabitants of the home, in the city’s Ajami neighborhood, were Jews. Mohammad Gintazi, 12, suffered serious burn injuries as a result of the firebomb.

Some of these details were under a gag order, which was lifted by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday at the request of Haaretz and the Walla news website.

The police say the suspects threw several firebombs into the yards and windows of homes in Jaffa. The main suspect lives in Jaffa, though not in Ajami. His two alleged accomplices are brothers who live near the Gintazi family. None of the suspects has been identified.

Police say the area was poorly lit and the main suspect threw a firebomb into the Gintazis’ home by mistake. The suspects realized their error, fled the scene and hid at the home of relatives.

Police say the DNA of one of the brothers was found on bottles in two places where firebombs were thrown on the night of the incident, including near the Gintazis’ home. The suspect told detectives that other people might have used the bottles or a rag that he threw into a garbage can near his home. All three suspects deny the accusations. On Wednesday the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court extended their detention by five days.

The police and the Shin Bet security service consider the incident a terrorist act, and say the suspects sought to throw firebombs into the homes of Jews in order to avenge the clashes at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the Jewish-Arab unrest in Lod. They say the suspects planned to hit additional Jewish homes in the area, but stopped when they realized they had attacked an Arab family’s home by mistake.

Pistols and a submachine gun were recovered during a search of the suspects’ homes. Police officials said that claims of a property dispute between the Gintazis and the suspects’ families were ruled out.

Indictments are expected within a few days.

During the interrogation, one of the brothers was hospitalized for three days with bruising; he claims he was beaten by his interrogators. His lawyer, Ahmad Younis, says he was not informed of his client’s hospitalization and that the Shin Bet refused to inform him of his client’s whereabouts. “They blindfolded him. He didn’t even know where he was and which interrogator beat him,” Younis said. “These are terrible actions that break every law, this constitutes a grievous violation of the suspect’s rights,” he added. Younis said his client told him that he was interrogated by so many different people that he didn’t know who was interrogating him, and that as a result a confession was forced out of him.

The Shin Bet denies the beating, and a source in law enforcement said the suspect was hospitalized for an unrelated medical condition. The hospital’s discharge summary, however, mentioned the suspect’s bruises. The judge at Wednesday’s detention hearing asked for an explanation of the bruises, and the Justice Ministry’s department for investigating allegations of abuse by interrogators opened an inquiry.

Igal Dotan, a lawyer for one of the suspects, said in a statement that the court was given proof of the physical and psychological means the Shin Bet uses, including threatening suspects and their families with physical harm. “Some of these threats were carried out. The court also heard from the suspect direct testimony as to physical and emotional pressure and inhumane incarceration conditions, and we hope and believe that these things will be given fair expression in the future decisions of the investigative and judicial authorities in Israel,” Dotan said.

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