Palestinian toddler burned to death in attack by suspected Israeli extremists

Israeli forces inspect a Palestinian house that was set on fire in the West Bank village of Duma, killing a child, on July 31.

Israeli forces inspect a Palestinian house that was set on fire in the West Bank village of Duma, killing a child, on July 31.

(Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP/Getty Images)

An 18-month-old Palestinian child was burned to death Friday when people believed to be Israeli extremists set fire to a home in a West Bank village, according to a Palestinian official and the Israeli army.

Ali Dawabshe was killed in his bed, officials said. His parents, Said and Riham, were able to escape with their 4-year-old son, Ahmad. All three suffered burns over much of their bodies.

The attack in the village of Duma, which analysts fear could lead to a spiral of violence, was carried out by a group of masked people believed to be Israelis from a nearby settlement, Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas said. The assailants smashed the window of the bedroom and tossed a firebomb inside.


Later, after Friday prayers, rioting broke out in several areas around the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israeli police heightened security in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israeli leaders, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, quickly condemned the firebombing, calling it “an act of terrorism in every respect.” Netanyahu, who visited the injured family at an Israeli hospital, said that Israel takes a strong line against terrorism “regardless of who the perpetrators are.”

But Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who spoke to Netanyahu on Friday, said in a televised statement that Israel bore full responsibility “because it encourages and builds settlements everywhere in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and these acts encourage the settlers to carry out attacks every day.

“If the Israeli army wants to stop these attacks, they could,” Abbas said.

The anti-Arab Price Tag organization, which operates in West Bank Israeli settlements, was believed responsible for the violence. The group had vowed to attack Palestinian targets whenever the Israeli army takes action against Israeli settlers and settlements.

The Israeli army on Wednesday demolished two buildings in Beit El, an Israeli settlement north of Ramallah. The Israeli Supreme Court had ordered their removal on the grounds they were built on private Palestinian land.

Tension in the West Bank was high before the attack. The Islamist militant group Hamas had already labeled Friday a “day of rage,” calling for protests after the recent killing of three Palestinians in separate West Bank incidents at Al Aqsa mosque and Temple Mount.


Israeli police increased deployments in Jerusalem, setting up roadblocks around the city as well as restricting access to Al Aqsa.

After the attack in Duma, Israeli forces, including military and police forensic experts, quickly arrived to begin an investigation and manhunt.

The child was buried in the village, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah attended the funeral.

The death quickly drew international outrage. Deputy State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner said the U.S. “condemns in the strongest possible terms last night’s vicious terrorist attack” and extends “profound condolences” to the family of the victims.

Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner described the attack as “a barbaric act of terrorism.”

“We are at war,” said opposition lawmaker Yair Lapid, who described all acts of violence and intolerance on the part of Jewish extremists as equally dangerous. “Those burning a Palestinian baby have declared war against the state of Israel.

“This is the enemy from within. ... These people are a fifth column. ... They may look like us but they are not like us,” he said.


Arab Israeli lawmaker Ahmad Tibi said, “The settlement government is morally responsible” for the child’s death. “This is not a stray weed; this is a rain forest of terrorists inspired by rabbis who consecrate attacking gentiles as a way to redemption.

“In the Middle East around us, we have ISIS burning people. And among us, we have a Jewish ISIS burning children and families,” Tibi said, using an acronym for the terrorist group Islamic State.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called for serious soul-searching.

“This is terrorism of the worst kind,” he said, noting the gruesome similarity to the death of Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was burned to death by Jewish extremists last year. “The repeat of such a case should make us grieve on a national level.”

Special correspondents Abukhater reported from Ramallah and Sobelman from Jerusalem.

Special correspondents Abukhater reported from Ramallah and Sobelman from Jerusalem.


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