Israel on Sunday indicted two Jewish extremists suspected in a July arson attack on a Palestinian home that killed a toddler and his parents – a case that has been unsolved for months and helped fuel the current wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The long-awaited indictment follows months of investigations into a web of Jewish extremists operating in the West Bank. The indictment named Amiram Ben-Uliel, a 21-year-old West Bank settler, as the main suspect in the attack. A minor was charged as an accessory.
Yinon Reuveni, 20, and another minor were charged for other violence against Palestinians. All four were charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation.
The arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh, while his mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali’s 4-year-old brother Ahmad survived.
The firebombing, carried out at night while the family slept, sparked soul-searching among Israelis.
It was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged “zero tolerance” in the fight to bring the assailants to justice. Israel has authorised a series of steps, including holding several suspects without charge – a tactic typically used against Palestinian militants – to crack the case.
But critics have said that similar, albeit not deadly, attacks have festered for years with little action by the government. And for months, Palestinians watched angrily as the case remained unsolved, intensifying a feeling of skewed justice in the occupied territory, where suspected Palestinian militants are prosecuted under a separate system of military law that gives them few rights. The arson also touched on Palestinian fears of extremist Jewish settlers, who have attacked Palestinian property with impunity.
Palestinians cite the Duma incident as a factor in a three-month wave of attacks and clashes roiling the region, saying they are frustrated by years of unchecked settler violence.
Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers over the past three and a half months have killed 21 Israelis, mostly in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. That figure does not include the two Israelis killed Friday by an Arab man in a shooting attack on a Tel Aviv restaurant, as the motive for the attack hasn’t officially been determined yet.
During that time, at least 131 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, 90 of them identified by Israel as assailants. The rest died in clashes with security forces.
Israel says the violence is being fanned by a Palestinian campaign of incitement. The Palestinians say it is rooted in frustrations stemming from nearly five decades of Israeli occupation.