JERUSALEM – Nearly five years after the brutal killing of a Palestinian family in the West Bank village of Duma, an Israeli court on Monday convicted a Jewish extremist on three counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder but stopped short of finding the perpetrator guilty of membership in a terrorist organization.
According to Israeli authorities, Amiram Ben-Uliel lobbed a molotov cocktail through the window of the Dawabshe family home in the early morning of July 31, 2015, sparking a fire that spread rapidly as the family slept inside.
Saad and Reham Dawabshe and their 18-month-old son, Ali, were killed in the fire. Another son, Ahmad, who was then 4, escaped with severe injuries.
Graffiti scrawled in Hebrew calling for “Revenge,” with an image of the Jewish Star of David on a building, nearby quickly led authorities to label it a “price tag” attack. The term is used to describe violence and vandalism carried out by some Jewish settlers and their supporters to extract “a price” for any actions against them, either by Israeli soldiers or Palestinian civilians.
Ben-Uliel, 25, the son of a prominent West Bank rabbi, was formally charged six months later, along with a minor. He confessed to the crime and said it was “revenge” for the murder of Malachi Rosenfeld, an Israeli killed a month earlier by a Palestinian in a drive-by shooting not far from Duma.
The indictment said Ben-Uliel and his young accomplice met several times to plan the attack, even mapping the layout of the village. On the night of the murder, however, the minor allegedly did not show up, and Ben-Uliel went alone to the village, where he threw two firebombs at the Dawabshe home and another residence, police said.
In its ruling, a panel of three Israeli judges explained that Ben-Uliel was acquitted of belonging to a terrorist organization. Although the attack was an act of terrorism, they said, there was not enough evidence to prove any links to organizations, Haaretz reported.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Reham’s father, Hussein Dawabshe said that the verdict would not bring his back his daughter, her husband or his grandson. “But I don’t want another child to be in Ahmad’s place,” he said, referring to the surviving son. “We experienced a great trauma, and I won’t forget it in 100 years. I don’t want this to happen to another family.”
Israel’s internal security agency, the Shin Bet, which is tasked with combating Jewish extremism, said in a statement that the court’s decision was “an important milestone in the battle against Jewish terror.” Ben-Uliel’s crimes were a “severe crossing of a red line.”
Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have condemned the attack in Duma. “We are against murder of any kind,” Netanyahu said at the time of Ben-Uliel’s arrest. “We are against violence of any kind. We are against violations of the law wherever they occur. We are a state of law, and we will enforce the law throughout the state of Israel and vis-a-vis all citizens of Israel.”