Palestinian toddler killed in ‘price tag’ arson attack

A photo from the scene at the 'price tag' arson. Credit: Rabbis for Human Rights

A Palestinian toddler died in an arson attack, suspected to have been carried out by far-right settlers. The deceased, an 18-month-old child, Ali Saad Dawabsha slept alongside his family, oblivious to an impending peril.

In the early hours of Friday morning, two masked men entered the village of Duma, in the northern area of the West Bank, outside the city of Nablus. They smashed the windows of two properties (one of which was empty) and threw Molotov cocktails inside. The perpetrators also daubed the buildings with graffiti. The Hebrew text read “revenge” and “long live the Messiah”.

As the flames burned, his father, Sa’ad, escorted his wife, Reham, and four-year-old son Ahmed to safety. But according to witnesses, a lack of electricity prevented him from finding Ali.

The family visited a hospital in Nablus in the West Bank and then the burn unit at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. Reports suggest that Ali’s mother sustained between 70 and 90 per cent burns. His father and brother remain in critical conditions.

Politicians across the Israeli political spectrum condemned the murder. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as “a clear-cut terrorist attack. Israel takes a strong hand against terror, no matter who its perpetrators are“.

IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz said he does “not remember an incident this severe in recent years,” as Zacharia Sadeh, of Rabbis for Human Rights, stated: “This is a terror attack against innocent people who were asleep in their home”.

The office of Mahmoud Abbas said it holds Israel responsible. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’ spokesman, said in a statement: “We will no longer accept verbal condemnations of such horrible crimes by the international community; we demand operative steps to bring about an end to the occupation and see its criminals brought to justice”.

Previous examples of “price tag” violence targeted religious institutions. Arsons that infuse the language of anti-Arab racism with a religious nationalism not too dissimilar from the ‘Kahanistideology of the Jewish Defence League.

On Wednesday, Israeli prosecutors indicted Yinon Reuveni and Yehuda Asraf for allegedly setting fire to part of the Church of Loaves and Fish and writing “Idols will be cast out” on an adjacent wall. A third man, Moshe Orbach, faces accusations of writing and distributing a document detailing the “necessity” of attacking non-Jewish people and property.

Netanyahu ordered the defence forces to use ‘all means at their disposal’ to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. But some remain sceptical; in 2014, the Israeli Human Rights organisation Yesh Din, found that of the 1,045 Israeli police files opened in the Occupied West Bank between 2005 and 2014, just 7.4 per cent of investigations ‘led to indictments of Israeli civilians suspected of attacking Palestinians and their property’.

Restrictions have been put in place by the Israeli authorities for Friday prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Ali Saad Dawabsha’s death, in an act of terror, has been condemned nationally and internationally.