Palestinian toddler burnt to death in arson attack

Palestinian President Abbas said he would appeal to the ICC to probe Friday's arson attack that killed a toddler

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An 18 month-old Palestinian toddler was burnt to death on Friday after a group of suspected Jewish attackers set fire to the family home, seriously injuring the parents and four-year-old brother.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud described the attack as a “humanitarian crime.”

The house in Duma, a village near the city of Nablus, had its windows smashed and fire bombs thrown inside shortly before dawn as the family slept, the military and witnesses said. Graffiti in Hebrew reading “revenge” was scrawled outside, below a Star of David.

The child’s parents and four-year-old brother were flown by helicopter to an Israeli hospital where they were said to be in serious condition, officials said. A second house in the village was also set ablaze, but no one was at home.

It was the worst attack by Israeli assailants since a Palestinian teenager was burned to death in Jerusalem a year ago. That followed the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinian militants in the West Bank.

The Israeli military boosted forces in the area to search for the suspects, described by a spokesman as “two masked terrorists,” and prevent any escalation in violence. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas called for revenge.

Netanyahu calls Abbas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare telephone call to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, condemning the murder.

Netanyahu told Abbas “everyone in Israel was shocked by the reprehensible terrorism against the Dawabsha family” that killed the 18-month-old boy, his office said.

“We must fight terrorism together, regardless of which side it comes from,” he added.

Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner called the arson “nothing short of a barbaric act of terrorism.”

While there has been wide-spread condemnation in Israel, “this will mean absolutely nothing if they allow settler attacks to continue,” Chris Doyle, director of the The Center for Arab British Understanding (CAABU), told Al Arabiya News.

The police said a special task-force was investigating the killing, along with the Shin Bet security service.

U.N. condemns, U.S. slams ‘vicious terrorist attack’

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) condemned the attack later on Friday.

“The members of the security council expressed profound and condemned in the strongest terms the viscous arson attack in the village of Duma near Nablus which killed Palestinian toddler, Ali, and injured his family members,” a statement from the highest U.N. body said.

UNSC members also “underlined the need to bring the perpetrators of this deplorable act to justice.”

The United States on Friday also condemned what it said was a “vicious terrorist attack.”

A statement from the U.S. State Department urged Israel to “apprehend the murderers” and called on both sides to “avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this tragic incident.”

Anti-Palestinian rhetoric

Part of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition is the ultranationalist Jewish Home party, which advocates more settlements and settler rights in the West Bank. Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett was quick to denounce the attack, but Palestinians accused the party of laying the ground for it.

“The presence of the Jewish Home Party is just further reason to doubt any of the statements that have been made by the Israeli ministers today condemning the attack,” Doyle said.

In 2013, Bennett said: “I have killed lots of Arabs in my life—and there is no problem with that.”

While more recently, member Ayelet Shaked said that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and called for its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg of negative, racist, anti-Palestinian rhetoric that is going on which creates a climate that makes this [arson attack] acceptable,” Doyle said.

“The idea that this government which is the most pro-settler in Israel’s history will do anything substantive I think is wishful thinking in the extreme,” he added.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem said this attack was expected as Israeli authorities continue to let these assailants ask with impunity.

“This, due to the authorities' policy to avoid enforcing the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians and their property,” a statement on the group’s website read.

“This policy creates impunity for hate crimes, and encourages assailants to continue, leading to this morning's horrific result,” B’Tselem said.

Apart from a proper investigation, the appropriate arrests, and disarming of settlers, Doyle said a settlement freeze would be the ideal product of condemning this attack.

“That’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon but certainly a settlements freeze and a clear indication from the Israeli government that they are actually going to be serious about [these attacks], that would be very welcomed.”

Palestinians to push for ICC probe

Abbas described the attack as a “war crime, a humanitarian crime.” He also said it would be part of the Palestinians’ case against Israel at the International Criminal Court.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat blamed Israel for the incident, calling it a “brutal assassination.”

Earlier a spokesman for Abbas also held Israel responsible. “Such a crime would not have occurred if the Israeli government did not insist on pursuing settlements and protecting settlers,” Nabil Abu Rdainah said.

Hamas spokesman Hussam Badran called for retaliation. “This crime has made occupation soldiers and settlers everywhere legitimate targets,” he said.

CAABU said this “was not an isolated incident.”

“Israeli settlers in the West Bank have perpetrated killings and violence against Palestinians for years in a climate of almost complete impunity,” a statement from the group said.

Nine Palestinian homes have been burnt down by settlers in the past three years, CAABU said citing a report by B’Tselem.

“Caabu Parliamentary delegations have witnessed settler violence and its results. These include burnt homes, cars and olive groves,” the statement said.

“All too frequently human rights groups and video evidence show that Israeli soldiers stand by and do nothing.”

CAABU director Chris Doyle said these settlers should not have been in the West Bank in the first place.

“Settlements are illegal. They also have a real impact on Palestinian lives taking their land, resources and water. Moreover they pose a real and serious threat to Palestinian security,” he said.

(With Reuters)

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