Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon vowed on Monday to lead a determined, uncompromising fight against Jewish terrorism, a day after the Israeli government approved the use of administrative detention and other appropriate means to track down and hold suspects in Friday’s Molotov cocktail attack in the West Bank which killed Palestinian toddler Ali Dawabsha.
The suspected perpetrators in Friday’s attack are Jewish extremists. Two homes in the Palestinian village of Duma, south of Nablus, were set alight, including the Dawabsha home, and the Hebrew words “Revenge” and “Long live the king messiah” were spray-painted on their walls, alongside a Star of David.
“This is a battle for the image of Israel, and we have no intention of relenting in this battle,” Ya’alon said.
“We intend to fight Jewish terror with determination and without compromises,” said the defense minister.
The purpose of the cabinet decision was to “limit the actions of terrorists and those involved in terror, in cases where they are clearly involved but in which we have difficulties arresting them because of a lack of evidence,” he said.
This drastic measure, Ya’alon added, will be one of the ways Israel will “hit back at the Jewish terrorists, bring them to justice and protect Israeli democracy and Israeli citizens.”
At an emergency meeting Sunday evening, ministers approved the use of “all means necessary” to catch the Palestinian toddler’s killers, who firebombed the Dawabsha home in the early hours of Friday morning, burning it down, killing Ali, and leaving his parents and brother fighting for their lives.
Ministers also agreed to expedite legislation designed to counter Jewish terrorism, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
A ministerial committee including Ya’alon, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was established to oversee other requirements to ensure more effective efforts to quell the extremism.
Security officials quoted on Israel’s Channel 2 news warned that a group of Jewish extremists, sometimes referred to as “Hilltop youth,” were responsible for a series of hate-crime attacks in recent years, and that these “rebels” and “anarchists” are bent on undermining the rule of law in Israel.
The officials said there had been a fall in the number of their attacks of late, but that the attacks themselves were becoming increasingly grave.
The officials said they were not being hampered by a lack of intelligence as much as by a lack of legal tools to grapple with Jewish suspects. Of five suspects in a June arson attack at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, at Tabgha on the Sea of Galilee, they said, three had been indicted, but they did not have the legal tools necessary to hold the other two in detention.
Other security insiders told The Times of Israel Sunday, however, that the Shin Bet security service did have difficulty obtaining intelligence about Jewish extremist groupings. A Channel 2 report on Friday said that investigations into 15 arson attacks on Palestinian targets since 2008 had yielded no convictions.
A senior defense official told Israel Radio earlier Sunday that dealing with Jewish terror suspects necessitated using the same methods implemented against Palestinian terror suspects.
The official noted that the perpetrators of Friday’s firebomb attack in the West Bank village of Duma had been sophisticated in their actions — avoiding carrying mobile phones on their person — which could have been used to identify them — and leaving no tracks when they escaped the scene.
Israeli security sources said Saturday that the two assailants had fled on foot in the direction of east Shiloh, a settlement area nearby. A Channel 2 report said they were suspected of coming from the area of the Esh Kodesh settlement outpost, but not from the outpost itself. A gag order has been placed on the investigation.
Administrative detention — incarceration without trial — is considered a harsh and highly controversial method, but is increasingly used by world governments to combat the threat of terror, when there is not enough evidence against a suspect to justify a criminal trial. Administrative detention is temporary in nature, but may be renewed repeatedly by the defense minister.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.