Israeli court convicts Jewish extremist for 2015 arson attack that killed baby

The firebomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed a Palestinian couple and their 18-month-old toddler

A relative holds up a photo of 18-months-old Ali Dawabshe, who was killed in the firebomb attack in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo
A relative holds up a photo of 18-months-old Ali Dawabshe, who was killed in the firebomb attack in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. Majdi Mohammed/AP Photo

An Israeli court found a Jewish settler guilty of racially motivated murder on Monday in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian couple and their baby in the occupied West Bank.

The triple conviction of Amiram Ben-Uliel, 25, by Lod District Court carries a potential life prison sentence.

He has argued that Israeli investigators forced him to make a false confession to the attack on the Dawabsheh family's home in the village of Duma. A lawyer for Ben-Uliel said on Monday that he would appeal the verdict at Israel's Supreme Court.

The court ruled that he hurled firebombs late one night into a West Bank home in July 2015 as the family slept, killing 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh. His mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali's 4-year-old brother Ahmad survived.

"This trial won't bring my family back," Hussein Dawabshe, the toddler's grandfather, said outside the courtroom in central Israel. "But I don't want another family to go through the trauma that I have."

At the time of the arson killing, Israel was dealing with a wave of vigilante-style attacks by suspected Jewish extremists. But the deadly firebombing in the occupied West Bank village of Duma touched a particularly sensitive nerve.

The attack was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged "zero tolerance" in the fight to bring the assailants to justice. Investigators placed several suspects under "administrative detention," a measure typically reserved for alleged Palestinian militants that allows authorities to hold suspects for months without charge.

Critics, however, noted that lesser non-deadly attacks, such as firebombings that damaged mosques and churches, had gone unpunished for years. And as the investigation into the Duma attack dragged on, Palestinians complained of a double-standard, where suspected Palestinian militants are quickly rounded up and prosecuted under a military legal system that gives them few rights while Jewish Israelis are protected by the country's criminal laws.

The Shin Bet internal security service had said Ben-Uliel confessed to planning and carrying out the attack, and that two others were accessories. It said he claimed the arson was in retaliation for the killing of an Israeli by Palestinians a month earlier.

Updated: May 18, 2020 11:21 AM

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