A firebomb hurled into the heart of a Palestinian village
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A firebomb hurled into the heart of a Palestinian village

Amid the lingering stench of burning, mourners fill a tent in the center of Duma to bewail attack on family, and note that the alleged Jewish terrorists didn't choose a target on the edge of town

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Relatives mourn during the funeral of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha, who died after his house was set on fire in an attack by suspected Jewish terrorists, in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
Relatives mourn during the funeral of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha, who died after his house was set on fire in an attack by suspected Jewish terrorists, in the West Bank village of Duma on July 31, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

DUMA, West Bank — The air stands still Sunday in Duma, and not just because of the weather, one of the hottest days of the year and possibly in recent years. Over 100 people sit in the noon hours, peak heat, on chairs in the school courtyard, in the mourners’ tent opened in the village.

The governor of Nablus, to which the village belongs, Ikram Rajoub, repeatedly mops the sweat off his brow, though to little avail. Every few minutes another speaker gets up to say a few words, one time in the name of Al-Quds University, the next in the name of a far-flung village and its residents who came to visit the stunned Duma villagers in the mourners’ tent.

It appears that more than a few of the visitors came to hear about what happened Thursday night, which ended in the brutal murder of the year-old baby Ali Sa’ad al-Dawabsheh, and in effect the wiping out of a whole family.The mother, Riham, is hospitalized in critical condition; the father Sa’ad and his son Ahmed remain in serious condition.

From the wall gazes a photo of Ali, angelic and innocent. A baby, like all babies, who didn’t know that he was the enemy of another people or the target of alleged Jewish terrorism.

The accents of residents betray the fact that they are farmers. There are no air conditioners, no hi-tech gadgetry in this place. The view is pastoral, belying reality. Opposite stands the hill on which the illegal outposts of Esh Kodesh, Adei Ad, and Geulat Zion are built.

The terrorists, apparently Jews, came around 1:30 a.m. to the village, though it’s not clear from where.The assessment among residents is that they parked not far away, possibly even on the side of the main road which once was the key artery between Nablus and Ramallah. From there they walked in the darkness several hundred meters toward the village.

The burned-down home of the Dawabsha family in the Palestinian village of Duma, near Nablus, July 31, 2015 (Zacharia Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights)
The burned-down home of the Dawabsha family in the Palestinian village of Duma, near Nablus, July 31, 2015 (Zacharia Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights)

They didn’t choose a lone house on the outskirts of Duma. Rather they headed to two homes deep inside the old alleyways of the village, showing their determination to strike in the heart of the place with their murderous and calculated attack.

First they threw firebombs into an empty home. From there they quickly crossed to the adjacent house of Sa’ad and Riham Dawabsheh, where they hurled Molotov cocktails through the windows, according to initial accounts.

It’s hard to know if they fled the scene immediately or if they stayed to watch the horror that unfolded.

Their escape route, according to eyewitnesses from the village, was to the west, toward the highway.

The smell of burning lingers in the still air inside the burned house Sunday.

“This is the bedroom,” a child tells visitors.

One imagines, in those critical moments when the house began to burn, the path by which the father, mother and brother fled through the kitchen toward the exit.

Zecharia Sadeh from the group Rabbis for Human Rights arrived at the village around 3 a.m. after the fire.

“Everything was burned. People looked shocked, as if a missile had fallen on them,” he told The Times of Israel. “The neighbors told me about screams and that then they saw the father come out with Ahmed in his hands, completely covered in burns and scorched skin. He shouted at them, ‘Save my son and wife.’ At some stage a woman came out with a blanket in her hands. She apparently tried to lift the baby in her hands, and somewhere between the bedroom and kitchen he fell from her hands and she couldn’t even tell because of the flames burning her and the smoke.”

A relative holds up a photo of a one-and-a-half year old boy, Ali Dawabsha, in the family house torched in a suspected attack by Jewish terrorists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus, Friday, July 31, 2015. The boy died in the fire, his four-year-old brother and parents were badly hurt. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
A relative holds up a photo of a one-and-a-half year old boy, Ali Dawabsha, in the family house torched in a suspected attack by Jewish terrorists in Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus, Friday, July 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

“Only when she got outside did she discover that her baby fell and that the flames burned him. That’s it. Afterwards they didn’t manage to get to [the nearby West Bank settlement of] Eli, until the firefighters arrived and he was already dead,” he said.

Zecharia, who’s worked for many years with Israeli human rights groups in the West Bank, wasn’t surprised by the choice of the two houses inside the village and not ones on the outskirts.

“Look what happened in the torching of a house in the village of Abu Falah, or the mosque in al-Mugheir. The targets weren’t on the outskirts. What’s common throughout all of them is that all these villages are surrounded by hills on which there are illegal outposts. Esh Kodesh, Adei Ad and Geulat Zion. Draw your own conclusions.”

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