The two perpetrators of the firebombing attack in which 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burned to death in his home on Friday morning are believed to be right-wing extremists who live at an illegal outpost in the east Shilo area of the West Bank, not far from the Palestinian village of Duma where the attack took place, Israel’s Channel 10 news reported Saturday.
The Shin Bet has clamped a gag order on the investigation.
Security sources told Israel’s Channel 10 on Saturday that residents of illegal outposts in that area had “a history” of hostile relations with local Palestinian villages.
The two assailants are understood to have fled the scene of the crime on foot.
On Friday evening, Channel 2 reported that there was “the beginning of a lead” in the investigation of the alleged Jewish terrorist attack. According to the report, the assailants are believed to have come from the area of the nearby Esh Kodesh settlement outpost, “but not from Esh Kodesh itself.”
Extremist residents of the outposts are often referred to as “Hilltop Youths.”
The former head of the IDF Central Command General Avi Mizrahi, speaking on Channel 2, described them as “a cult,” whose members “heed no laws.” He said Israel had to treat their actions “as terrorism, and act accordingly. We made a mistake to call them ‘Hilltop Youth’ and to describe their actions as ‘price tag’ attacks. It’s terror and it’s terrorism.”
“They number in the hundreds, not in the dozens as initially thought. They operate in coordination, they are organized. There is planning,” Mizrahi said.
“It’s a cult that doesn’t believe in Israeli sovereignty and law, in Israeli courts. And they can bring catastrophe upon us,” he added.
Mizrahi said the extremists had carried out 15 arson attacks in the West Bank area in the past year.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking by phone to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, pledged to catch the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Netanyahu told Abbas that he has instructed security forces to go to “every length” to locate and arrest the perpetrators.
On Saturday, the PA announced that it viewed the murderers as fugitives and that it had instructed its own security forces to search for them.
Right-wing extremists have for years staged attacks against Palestinian property, as well as mosques, churches, dovish Israeli groups and even Israeli military bases. The attacks, known as “price tags” because they exact a price for Israeli steps seen as favorable to the Palestinians, have stirred fear in Palestinians but rarely any deaths — which made Friday’s incident, in which 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was killed and his parents and brother severely injured, all the more startling.
The child was killed and the rest of his family badly burned when their home was set alight in Duma, south of Nablus, in the early hours of Friday morning. The Hebrew words “Revenge” and “Long live the king messiah” were spray-painted on their walls, alongside a Star of David.
An initial probe indicated that two attackers smashed windows at the home and threw petrol bombs inside.