Terror conviction for Israeli Jew in deadly arson case

Palestinian women mourn during the funeral of Saad Dawabsha, the father of a Palestinian toddler killed when their home was firebombed by Jewish extremists, in the West Bank village of Duma on August 8, 2015. — AFP pic
Palestinian women mourn during the funeral of Saad Dawabsha, the father of a Palestinian toddler killed when their home was firebombed by Jewish extremists, in the West Bank village of Duma on August 8, 2015. — AFP pic

JERUSALEM, Oct 24 — An Israeli court today convicted a young Jewish man involved in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents of a separate charge of membership in a terror organisation.

The court had already accepted a plea bargain in May convicting the Israeli of a racially motivated conspiracy to commit a crime and vandalism.

Today’s separate conviction was for being a member of the so-called hilltop youth, a loosely affiliated group of Jewish extremists who the court said seek “to instil fear among Arabs while damaging their property and risking lives.”

The firebomb attack in the occupied West Bank village of Duma killed 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha and fatally wounded his mother and father.

His brother Ahmed, four at the time, was the sole survivor from the immediate family and escaped with severe burns.

The accused, who was 17 at the time of the killings and tried as a minor, had admitted to staking out the village ahead of the attack along with adult defendant Amiram Ben-Uliel, but was said not to have participated in it.

He has not been named since he was tried as a minor.

Ben-Uliel, from the northern West Bank settlement of Shilo, remains on trial on three counts of murder and one of attempted murder, along with arson and conspiracy to commit a hate crime.

In today's ruling, the Lod district court detailed the ideology and actions of the hilltop youth.

The court described a group of approximately 100 people whose acts of vandalism were aimed at Arab property as well as churches.

“The defendant describes the vision to which he and his friends are working—forming a state, including an army and courts, that would function according to Jewish laws,” the decision read. 

“At this stage, gentiles have no right to be in it, and therefore, if they do not leave willingly, they may be killed indiscriminately,” the court said of their ideology.

Sentencing was scheduled for January.

Defence attorney Zion Amir said today he was “very surprised” by the court ruling, vowing to file an appeal to the supreme court.

The attack drew renewed attention to Jewish extremism and sparked accusations Israel has not done enough to prevent such violence.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labelled it “terrorism”—a word more usually used by Israelis to refer to violence committed by Palestinians. — AFP

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