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Jewish extremist convicted in attack that killed toddler, parents

Palestinian mourners visit the grave of Riham Dawabsheh after her funeral in 2015. Her husband and child are buried next to her.
(Associated Press)

An Israeli district court Monday convicted a Jewish extremist of murder in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents.

The court ruled that the Jewish settler Amiram Ben-Uliel hurled firebombs into a West Bank home in July 2015, killing 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh. His mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali’s 4-year-old brother, Ahmad, survived.

The case sent shock waves through Israel and helped fuel months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. It came at a time when Israel was dealing with a wave of vigilante-style attacks by suspected Jewish extremists. But the deadly firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma touched a particularly sensitive nerve.

The attack was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged “zero tolerance” in the fight to bring the assailants to justice. Investigators placed several suspects under “administrative detention,” a measure typically reserved for alleged Palestinian militants that allows authorities to hold suspects for months without charge.

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Critics, however, noted that lesser non-deadly attacks, such as firebombings that damaged mosques and churches, had gone unpunished for years. And as the investigation into the Duma attack dragged on, Palestinians complained of a double standard, where suspected Palestinian militants are quickly rounded up and prosecuted under a military legal system that gives them few rights while Jewish Israelis are protected by the country’s criminal laws.

As the judges walked into the court, 25-year-old Ben-Uliel sat slouched in the dock, a large white skullcap on his head and blue mask on his face, reading what looked to be a biblical text.

The Shin Bet internal security service said Ben-Uliel had confessed to planning and carrying out the attack, and two others were accessories. It said he claimed the arson was in retaliation for the killing of an Israeli by Palestinians a month earlier.

Ben-Uliel’s lawyers said they were not surprised by the verdict and that their client’s confession was allegedly made under torture.


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