JERUSALEM // The father of a Palestinian toddler killed in a petrol bomb attack blamed on Jewish settlers died of his wounds on Saturday, prompting calls from Hamas for “confrontation” with the Israeli occupation and raising fears of revenge attacks.
Saad Dawabsha, 31, died of severe burn wounds at Israel’s Soroka Hospital in the southern city of Beersheba, where he was taken following the July 31 attack on his home in the West Bank village of Duma, near Nablus. His 18-month-old son, Ali, was burnt to death in the attack, while his wife Riham, 27, and son Ahmed, 4, were critically wounded. On Saturday they remained in a critical condition at Israel’s Sheba Hospital, near Tel Aviv.
Several thousand mourners turned out for Saad’s funeral in Duma on Saturday afternoon, many carrying banners in support of Hamas and president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. The procession was punctuated with chants of “with blood and spirit we will redeem you, oh martyr”, according to the Palestinian Maan news agency. Earlier in the day, Saad’s body had been transported from Soroka Hospital to the forensic institute of Al Najah University in Nablus, where an autopsy was carried out. The findings of the autopsy will be used to support a Palestinian Authority suit filed to the International Criminal Court last Monday over the attack.
Ibrahim Dawabsha, a neighbour and distant cousin of Saad, told The National that the 31-year-old's condition had been better than Riham's when he had helped to rescue them both from the fire.
“Since [Saad’s] transfer to hospital, he wasn’t responding to treatment,” said Ibrahim, adding that the “entire village” had travelled to Nablus to bring Saad’s body back to Duma.
Doctors said that Saad had arrived at Soroka with 80 per cent burns to his body. He underwent four operations in which the burnt skin was removed and new skin transplanted, but died due to his wounds becoming infected.
“I can’t describe my feelings,” said Ibrahim. “I’m very frustrated. This is a big tragedy.”
Saad’s brother Nasser said the attack recalled “dark days in history and the deeds of the Nazis”, according to Israel’s Ynet news agency.
“The state of Israel has to arrest the settlers who perpetrated this murder and put them on trial,” he said.
The assailants behind the attack left behind graffiti of a Star of David and the words “revenge” and “long live the King Messiah”. The attack drew international condemnation and prompted not only a vow by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to crack down on Jewish acts of terrorism, but also an admission by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin that the country has been “lax” in dealing with settler attacks.
But on Saturday, Hassan Khreisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, accused the Israeli government of insincerity in condemning the attack. "Their reaction is false. They know the criminals. No one can do anything without approval of the government," he told The National.
“They want to tell people outside ‘we are against this’ when we know they are behind it because they want to frighten Palestinians into leaving their homes.”
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon responded by saying, “Israel does not condone the attacks on Palestinians and totally rejects the argument that they serve an Israeli purpose.”
“Israel is committed to find[ing] the perpetrators of the deadly attack in Duma and will do everything in its power to bring them to justice.”
Following Saad’s death on Saturday, Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran called for “open and comprehensive confrontation against the [Israeli] occupation”.
Mr Badran wrote on Facebook that “nothing will stop these murderous settler attacks and we cannot wait until they come into our villages and homes”.
Meanwhile, the army was placed on alert for Palestinian unrest and possible revenge attacks, according to the state-run Israel Radio station. An army spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.
Clashes broke out between Palestinian protesters and the Israeli army across the West Bank and in East Jerusalem after the attack on the Dawabsha house. Just hours after, a Palestinian teenager, Laith Khaldi, was shot in the chest in the town of Birzeit and died of his wounds the following day. The army said he had thrown a Molotov cocktail at an army post.
Then, last Thursday, three soldiers were wounded, two of them seriously, when a Palestinian driver ran them over near the West Bank town of Sinjil. The driver was shot and seriously wounded by troops.
“Now there will be more attacks and violence on both sides leading to more violence and instability,” Mr Khreisheh said.
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse