30 wedding guests to be questioned over clip cheering Duma murders
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30 wedding guests to be questioned over clip cheering Duma murders

New footage aired on Channel 2 shows Lehava leader Bentzi Gopstein, attorney for suspects Itamar Ben Gvir, were among guests

Screenshot from a video showing extremist Israeli Jewish wedding-goers celebrating the killing of the Dawabsha family. (screen capture: Channel 10)
Screenshot from a video showing extremist Israeli Jewish wedding-goers celebrating the killing of the Dawabsha family. (screen capture: Channel 10)

Dozens of guests at a far-right wedding, where the murders of the Dawabshe family were celebrated, as seen in a now-infamous clip, will be summoned by police for questioning next week.

Channel 2 on Thursday night featured new footage of the event, which showed that Bentzi Gopstein, leader of the far-right Lehava organization, and Itamar Ben Gvir, the attorney for the Duma firebombing suspects, were present at the wedding. The new video featured more dancing with rifles, knives, and firebombs, as well as images of revelers torching and stabbing a photo of 18-month-old Ali Dawabshe, who was burned to death in the July 31 attack in the West Bank village of Duma.

According to the TV report, 30 of the wedding-goers will be questioned by police on suspicion of incitement to violence and illegal possession of weapons.

Earlier this week, police spokesperson Luba Samri said police had begun looking into the video on Wednesday afternoon before it was screened on Channel 10. Samri said the video shown on TV on Wednesday was only a small part of the material they are investigating.

“The serious investigative material gathered by the Israel Police, a small part of which was publicized yesterday, is vast, and it was transferred to the state attorney to gain approval for opening an investigation,” Samri said. “Yesterday afternoon, approval was given to the Israel Police’s Nationalist Crimes Unit in the Judea and Samaria District to investigate incitement and additional offenses.”

Leader of the far-right Israeli group Lehava, Benzi Gopstein on August 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Leader of the far-right Israeli group Lehava, Benzi Gopstein on August 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Moreover, the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot on Thursday ordered the Military Police to investigate how supposedly army-issue rifles were brandished by Jewish far-right participants at the wedding.

Eisenkot told the Military Police to find out how the weapons came to show up in the video and if any IDF soldiers took part in the event.

Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Honenu legal aid organization seen during a press conference regarding the detention of Jewish youth in the Duma terror attack investigation, in Jerusalem on December 17, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Honenu legal aid organization seen during a press conference regarding the detention of Jewish youth in the Duma terror attack investigation, in Jerusalem on December 17, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The groom, who is reportedly friends with the Jewish extremists detained in connection with the firebombing attack, said Thursday he was unaware of the celebrations of the murder at his wedding.

“I didn’t even see it. At my wedding I was in the clouds, not on the ground at all,” Yakir Ashbal told Channel 10.

He called the footage “shocking,” but insisted that “there were about 600 people at my wedding, and this wasn’t something I agreed to. There were a million people. I don’t control what happens at my wedding. I’m just the groom; I didn’t even pay for the photographer or the singer.”

Ashbal’s father, too, joined the chorus of denunciation Thursday, insisting he would have stopped the revelers calling for “vengeance” if he had seen them.

According to Channel 10, Ashbal belongs to a group calling itself “The Rebellion,” which advocates the toppling of the Israeli state and its replacement by a Jewish monarchy. The group also reportedly supports expelling non-Jews from the land.

Both bride and groom have previously been investigated by the Shin Bet.

The video drew widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum, though some right-wing lawmakers accused security officials of leaking the clip to demonize Jewish extremists being investigated over the murder of three members of a Palestinian family in July.

Both opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the images and the elements behind them. Netanyahu called the video “shocking,” while Herzog termed the revelers “lowlifes.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party told Army Radio on Thursday morning that the video’s release hurts Israel, though she didn’t criticize its contents.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party seen at a party meeting in the Knesset, October 12, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party at the Knesset, October 12, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“I regret that the video was released,” Shaked said. “This is something that, in the end, hurts the State of Israel.”

In response to recent criticism of the Shin Bet security service by right-wing elements with regard to the service’s treatment of suspects in the ongoing Dawabsha murder investigation, Shaked said that the criticism has no foundation.

“The Shin Bet has acted within the framework of the law, accompanied by court orders,” said the justice minister. “Some of the stories [of unnecessary force] spread in recent days have no connection to reality.”

The attack in Duma killed three members of a Palestinian family. Only one member of the Dawabsha family — Ahmed, now 5 — survived the attack, and remains hospitalized in Israel. The 18-month-old baby Ali was killed on the night of the attack, while parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their injuries in the succeeding weeks.

An unspecified number of Jewish suspects have been arrested in connection with the attack, which is being investigated as an act of terrorism. Details of the investigation, and the identity of the suspects, have been withheld from publication by a court-imposed gag order.

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