Ramallah, July 31, 2015—A Palestinian toddler burned to death when suspected Jewish settlers threw firebombs inside two homes in the northern West Bank village of Duma early Friday morning.
Witnesses told Defense for Children International – Palestine that two masked men smashed the windows of two homes and threw firebombs inside, setting them ablaze. One of the homes was empty, but in the other was Saad Dawabsheh’s family. The fire killed Ali Dawabsheh, 18 months, and left Saad, his wife, Riham, and their older son, Ahmad, 4, in a critical condition. The arsonists also spray-painted the words “revenge” and “Long live the Messiah king!” on the walls of the homes.
“I saw my neighbor, Saad, on the ground burning,” eyewitness Ibrahim Dawabsheh, 23, told DCIP. “And standing nearby was a person, approximately 170 centimeters (5 feet 6 inches) tall, wearing a black mask with openings for the eyes and mouth, a black shirt, and dark blue jeans.” He also saw another man, slightly taller and dressed similarly, standing near the burning body of Riham outside the home. Dawabsheh said the men looked like they were checking to see if the two victims were dead or alive. When the two men began to approach him, he ran toward his family home and called out for his brother.
The arsonists fled the scene toward the Maale Efrayim settlement – one of three settlements surrounding Duma – before residents could further identify them, Palestinian media reported.
The Israeli army confirmed the deadly attack by suspected Jewish extremists and launched a search to locate the perpetrators. “This attack against Palestinian civilians is a barbaric act of terrorism,” said Israeli army spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner in a tweet.
“Children are consistently the victims of these persistent and unrestricted attacks at the hands of Jewish extremists,” said Khaled Quzmar, general director of DCIP. “Israel’s condemnation of this heinous act rings hollow as the state’s policies have led to the climate of impunity that makes such violence possible.”
Israel approved this week plans to build 504 new settlement units in East Jerusalem and 300 in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.
Since Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967, it has established some 125 Jewish-only settlements that house 515,000 Israelis. The settlements are woven throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, often dividing the cities, villages and refugee camps of the 2.65 million Palestinians who live there.
According to international law, Israel’s settlements in the West Bank are illegal. Israel, however, claims religious and historical rights to the territory.
Stationed throughout the West Bank, Israeli soldiers, police and private security firms protect settler populations at the expense of Palestinian civilians. Unlike Israeli civilians living across the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 boundary with the West Bank, many settlers carry government-issued arms. This hyper-militarized environment inflicts disproportionate physical and psychological violence on Palestinian children.
Recent statistics by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that more than 2,500 settler attacks have occurred since 2006, 324 of which took place in 2014 alone.
Following incidents of settler violence, lack of justice is the norm, and not the exception. In a report published in May 2015, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din found that Israeli police closed more than 85 percent of investigations because of failure “to locate suspects or find sufficient evidence to indict suspects.” Only 1.9 percent of complaints submitted by Palestinians against Israeli civilian attacks resulted in a conviction.