Shin Bet announces ‘development’ in Duma investigation
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Shin Bet announces ‘development’ in Duma investigation

Security agency plans to file indictments against suspects in deadly West Bank arson attack attributed to Jewish terrorists

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)

The Shin Bet security service announced on Sunday a “development in recent days” in its investigation into a fatal firebombing in the West Bank town of Duma that has been attributed to Jewish terrorists. However, the agency stressed that a strict gag order on details about the case was still in place.

According to the Ynet news website, the national security service was set to declare Sunday that it planned to file an indictment.

The attack, which killed three members of the Dawabsha family in the village of Duma, near Nablus, has been ruled a terror attack by authorities, leading Israel’s security cabinet to vote to extend counterterror measures used in the West Bank against Palestinian terror suspects to Israeli citizens, including detention without trial.

Several Jewish extremists were detained by the Shin Bet in late November — the exact number has not been revealed — on suspicion of carrying out the attack. On Wednesday, their attorneys, who were allowed to meet with all but one suspect only after two weeks of detention, alleged that the detainees were tortured during their interrogations.

Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali. All three died when the Dawabsha home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed, by suspected Jewish extremists, on July 31, 2015 (Channel 2 screenshot)
Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali. All three died when the Dawabsha home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed, by suspected Jewish extremists, on July 31, 2015 (Channel 2 screenshot)

The Dawabsha family home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed on the night of July 31. Only one member of the family — four-year-old Ahmed — survived the attack, and remains hospitalized in Israel. Baby Ali was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Sa’ad died of their injuries in the succeeding weeks.

Some 500 right-wing activists demonstrated on Saturday night in Jerusalem over allegations of torture by the Shin Bet security service. Demonstrators stood outside the Jerusalem home of Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen carrying signs that read, “We demand justice” and “Enough persecution by the [state] prosecution.”

One of the suspects arrested in connection with the Dawabsha murder, December 3, 2015. Under a court-issued gag order, the identities of the suspects cannot be revealed. (Screen capture)
One of the suspects arrested in connection with the Dawabsha murder, December 3, 2015. Under a court-issued gag order, the identities of the suspects cannot be revealed. (Screen capture)

On Friday, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convene an urgent meeting of the cabinet committee that oversees the Shin Bet in order to discuss the allegations. The agency operates under the direct authority of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Ariel said that while “no one disputes” that the Duma attack and the suspicions against the detainees were severe, the accounts by the detainees’ lawyers — including of blows to sensitive organs and denial of sleep — are “chilling and raise the suspicion that severe physical torture took place,” Israel Radio reported.

Ariel’s demand was backed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which deals overwhelmingly with allegations of human rights abuses against Palestinians.

In a Friday tweet, ACRI said, “The report by the lawyers of the suspects in the Duma terror attack regarding the suspects’ interrogation by the Shin Bet raises serious suspicions that illegal methods of interrogation were employed, such as resorting to physical force.”

The group added in a second tweet: “We would like to remind you that a High Court of Justice ruling [forbidding] the use of torture was won by ACRI, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and the Hotline for Civil Rights and was based, among other sources, on reports by B’Tselem.”

The NGOs mentioned in the second tweet are groups usually dedicated to fighting civil rights abuses allegedly committed against Palestinians, and have been the subject of scathing right-wing criticism in recent weeks.

In response to the accusations, officials with the agency said its actions were within the remit of the legal mandate given to it by the cabinet.

The detainees’ conditions, including the denial of legal counsel during more than two weeks of detention, were brought before the High Court of Justice last week and were approved, they noted.

“All the actions [of the Shin Bet] are carried out according to law and in keeping with judicial precedent,” the organization said in a statement, “and are subject to close oversight of higher authorities.”

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