The key witness to a brutal arson attack on a Palestinian family now finds his own home destroyed by flames.
When a Molotov cocktail sent Riham and Saad Dawabshe’s home up in flames last year, killing the couple and their 18-month-old son, their cousin Ibrahim Dawabshe heard their screams from the house next door. The attack, allegedly carried out by Jewish extremists, drew international condemnation.
Early Sunday, Ibrahim and his wife, who still live along with much of the Dawabshe family in the West Bank village of Duma, awoke to thick smoke, neighbors said. They managed to get out of the house, and were taken to a hospital near Nablus to be treated for smoke inhalation and shock.
“Around 1:30 a.m., I heard my brother and his wife call for help,” Bashar Dawabshe said. “I went up towards their house on the next floor and saw the flames.” Surveying the wreckage later in the morning, Bashar said he saw that a window was broken and shattered glass lay inside the house.
Israeli police said that the fire did not appear to be an arson attack by Jewish extremists, though some details of the investigation remain under a gag order.
Family members disagreed. The fire was “a message to the family and the village: ‘This witness must disappear,’” relative Nasser Dawabshe told AFP.
Ibrahim was talking to his then-fiancee on the phone on July 31, 2015, the night his cousins were killed. “I heard Saad shouting: ‘Help, they have slaughtered me,’” he said at the time. “I dropped the phone and rushed to their house.”
The masked men lunged toward him and he ran back to his own house, then returned to try to rescue Ahmad, he said. “I used my cellphone as a light at the doorway of the bedroom. I could hear him, but I couldn’t see him. I eventually pulled him out.”
Ahmed, now 5, the sole survivor, had burns over 65% of his body, including severe burns on his legs.
Riham and Saad’s 18-month-old son Ali was killed in the fire. The couple later died in hospital of their burns, which covered up to 90% of their bodies.
Ibrahim also tried in vain to rescue Ali. “I put a cloth over my nose so that I could try to breathe, but the entire room was engulfed in flames and I couldn’t go in to rescue him,” Ibrahim said in July, in tears.
He remembered how Riham and Saad looked just after they escaped the burning house, as they were carried onto the courtyard of his property. They were covered in synthetic bedding fabric that had melted into their flesh. A trail of blood stained the courtyard.
Shuttleworth is a special correspondent.