Israel arrests suspects over Duma arson attack

Members of a ‘Jewish terror group’ have been arrested over the July 31 arson attack that killed toddler Ali Dawabsheh and his parents

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Israel is still trying to gather evidence against far-right Jews arrested for a lethal arson attack in July on a Palestinian home in the occupied West

Bank, the public security minister said on Friday, playing down prospects of an imminent trial.

A police announcement on Thursday that several “youths belonging to a Jewish terror group” were in custody stirred speculation of a breakthrough in the killing of three members of the Dawabsheh family, which had frayed Israeli-Palestinian ties.


Eighteen-month-old Ali Dawabsheh was killed in the July 31 blaze in Duma, a village outside Nablus.

His father, Saad Dawabsheh, succumbed to the burns he suffered in the fire on Aug. 9, and the baby’s mother, Riham, died in hospital four weeks later. Ali’s four-year-old brother remains in hospital.

Details on the case have been kept under wraps by Israel, drawing Palestinian allegations of foot-dragging, while lawyers for the suspects said their clients had been pressured by interrogators to confess. Israeli authorities deny both charges.

“There are not many investigations that get as high a priority as the investigation into the murders in Duma village,” Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel’s Army Radio.

But he described the suspects as “very, very difficult” to crack because they had often eluded state surveillance.

“For example, these are not people who go around with mobile telephones,” he said. “They are people who really live in the hills, disconnected from their close families.”

Still, Erdan said, “the Shin Bet (security service) and police made progress in this investigation in recent months and we are doing everything in order that we might also have evidence that would allow prosecution and indictments.”

Palestinian anger over the Duma attack has been a factor fueling a wave of street assaults that erupted on Oct. 1, killing 19 Israelis and a U.S. citizen. Israeli forces have killed 100 Palestinians, of whom 61 were identified by Israel as assailants or caught on camera carrying out assaults, while most others were killed in clashes with police or the military.

Israeli leaders pledged after the Dawabsheh toddler’s death to crack down on violent far-right Jewish groups, and the government decided to start detaining without trial Israeli citizens suspected of political violence against Palestinians.

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