When the shoe fit, Shin Bet knew it had found Duma killer
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When the shoe fit, Shin Bet knew it had found Duma killer

Investigators say evidence from the scene helped to incriminate Amiram Ben-Uliel, who also knew details of the firebombing that hadn't been publicized

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted Sunday, January 3, 2016, for murder in the killing of the Dawabsha family in Duma (courtesy)
Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted Sunday, January 3, 2016, for murder in the killing of the Dawabsha family in Duma (courtesy)

Investigators revealed Monday some of the evidence, including matching footprints and knowledge of information kept out of the press, that led to the indictments of the Jewish extremists allegedly responsible for the lethal Duma terror attack.

Early on in the investigation, it became clear to the Shin Bet security service that Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted Sunday on three counts of murder and two counts of arson, was the main perpetrator in the firebombing attack on the Dawabsha family, in which 18-month-old Ali and his parents Saad and Riham Dawabsha were killed, officials told the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

“Even in the first few weeks, our main suspicion was centered around Ben-Uliel. We knew it was him from a large number of facts that came together in the investigation, and as we went forward more and more things began to match up almost perfectly,” an investigator was quoted as saying.

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 parents, badly hurt, also later died. (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. The boy died in the fire, his parents, badly hurt, also later died. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

One of the first clues to the involvement of Ben-Uliel, 21, who had been living in Jerusalem at the time, was a footprint found leading away from the village of Duma, located south of Nablus in the northern West Bank.

Investigators visited Ben-Uliel’s residence to take his shoes in order to see if there was a match. The shoes not only confirmed law enforcement’s suspicion that Ben-Uliel was their man, but also informed Ben-Uliel that police were getting closer to solving the case, the officials said.

“And then it hit him,” one investigator was quoted as saying. “When we arrived at his home and took his shoes, he realized that we were closing in on him.”

In a Shin Bet lab, forensic scientists found that Ben-Uliel’s shoe matched the print left at the scene.

But investigators did not bring in Ben-Uliel at that point, instead arresting the minor who would be indicted as his accomplice on Sunday. As he is underage, the suspect is only referred to by the Hebrew initials Aleph Aleph.

One of the suspects arrested in connection with the Dawabsha murders, December 3, 2015. Due to a government gag order, the identities of the suspects are classified. (Screen capture)
One of the suspects arrested in connection with the Dawabsha murders, December 3, 2015. Due to a government gag order, the identities of the suspects are classified. (Screen capture)

Some two weeks after his arrest, Aleph Aleph gave up some information about “price tag” attacks — acts of violence and vandalism against Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel — that he and other members of his group, the Givonim, had carried out, which directly connected Ben-Uliel with Aleph Aleph.

Once that information was out, Shin Bet and police officers went back to Ben-Uliel, the report said. Further suspicions were raised when they discovered that around the time of the attacks, Ben-Uliel had moved from the West Bank to Jerusalem.

One of the people involved in the investigation, who claimed to know Ben-Uliel’s habits well, explained that his move to Jerusalem was a sure sign that something was up, as Ben-Uliel was “devout in his belief” that he needed to live in the hills of the West Bank.

Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted Sunday, January 3, 2016, for murder in the killing of the Dawabsha family in Duma (courtesy)
Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted Sunday, January 3, 2016, for murder in the killing of the Dawabsha family in Duma (courtesy)

But Ben-Uliel remained silent during the interviews, keeping his head down and avoiding eye contact with his interrogators. Like many of the so-called Hilltop Youth, Jewish extremists who often live in illegal West Bank settlements, Ben-Uliel had been trained to maintain his silence and composure during interrogation, investigators said.

At a certain point, the Shin Bet and the States Attorney’s Office declared Ben-Uliel and Aleph Aleph “ticking bombs,” suspects who are believed to be imminent threats, which allowed interrogators to exercise “extreme measures.”

While some decry such measures as government-condoned forms of torture, law enforcement officials claim they are legal tools necessary to extract information from some tight-lipped suspects.

Faced with new pressure, Ben-Uliel began to talk to investigators, the report said. He confessed to committing the crime and also incriminated himself by providing certain details that had not been released to the public. Ben-Uliel told investigators the color of the glass bottle used in the firebombing, which was green, and provided an accurate description of the Dawabshas’ car — a black Skoda sedan — investigators told the newspaper.

Ben-Uliel reenacted his alleged crime last month in Duma, taking officers through the July 31 attack step by step. He also mentioned tripping over as he fled the scene — a detail that matched an account that had been received from a neighbor of the Dawabshes.

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The Shin Bet’s account of what happened based on Ben-Uliel’s testimony, however, does not gibe with the description given by some eyewitnesses, who described seeing two perpetrators fleeing the scene, not just one.

In the end, Israel filed 36 indictments against Jewish extremists for various levels of connection with the attack, from Ben-Uliel and Aleph Aleph, who were allegedly directly involved, to others who were only peripherally connected.

In addition to the Duma attack, suspects were indicted for a variety of other “price tag” hate crime attacks — acts of violence and vandalism against Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel.

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