Ayala Shapira, the 11-year-old Israeli girl who was seriously hurt in a firebomb attack in the West Bank on Thursday evening, was still in life-threatening condition in the hospital on Saturday evening.
However Shapira, who suffered third-degree burns over much of her body and face in the attack, has successfully undergone the first of a series of operations, said doctors at Sheba Medical Center, where she is being treated in the intensive care unit.
Security forces on Friday arrested two Palestinians in connection to the firebomb attack. One is suspected of having thrown the Molotov cocktail. The other is suspected of assisting him. Another 10 Palestinians from the Palestinian village Azzun, near the site of the incident, were detained in the sweep.
Shapira, whose father Avner was lightly injured in the attack, is still intubated and sedated. A doctor at Sheba told Israel Radio Friday that they had opened a breathing passage in her neck, where she had suffered serious burns.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited the site of the attack on Friday and received a security assessment from forces on the ground.
Ya’alon then visited Ayala and her parents at the hospital, where he vowed to bring the perpetrators to account.
During a conversation with Avner and Ruth Shapira, part of which was caught on camera by Channel 2, Ya’alon was subject to an awkward series of criticisms by Avner, who said the security establishment was mishandling terror attacks against Israeli civilians, and that “the IDF doesn’t really fight.”
“My daughter is not a victim of a criminal act. She is the victim of a militant act [in the context of war]. The IDF engages in wasteful operations like in Operation Protective Edge, in which there’s talk of restoring deterrence but there is no strategy,” he told Ya’alon, who was visibly discomfited by the critique.
“We have an enemy who is trying to annihilate us and states this day and night. It’s not the IDF’s fault, rather [it’s the fault of] the security establishment which treats these acts as criminal. Criminals that need to be caught and made to stand trial as if you can stand trial during a war,” Shapira went on. In fact, “it is a case of us or them; they want to kick us out of here.”
Ya’alon said a weary “ok” as if to cut the conversation short.
Shapira said the incident began when he and his daughter were on their way home from an extra-curricular mathematics class Ayala attends. They turned onto the road connecting the Ma’ale Shomron settlement and the illegal outpost of El Matan, where the family lives. (He said his wife’s car was firebombed and damaged last month, but she managed to avoid injuries.)
Ayala’s mother, Ruth, said the petrol bomb “smashed through the window and landed on her lap.” It set her hair and clothes alight. Ruth said it took Ayala “a while to get out of the car.” It wasn’t clear if her seatbelt jammed. “She rolled on the ground” to put out the flames.
Ruth told Israel Radio that Avner took Ayala several hundred meters to their outpost home before receiving medical care.
“We saw the firebomb being lit above the road and the bottle being thrown,” Avner Shapira said from his hospital bed. “I shouted to my daughter to get out [of the car] and she managed to do it. Thanks to the grace of God we managed to get out of the car, but she was injured much more seriously than I was.”
Ayala is the eldest of five girls. Her mother said she is a “very special child” and “smart in an exceptional way.”
“If she wasn’t such a quick-witted child, we wouldn’t be talking right now,” Ruth Shapira told Ynet.
According to the Israel Defense Forces, the attack occurred on Route 55 outside the Ma’ale Shomron settlement at about 6:30 p.m.
Large numbers of IDF troops were deployed to the area following the incident to search for the perpetrators.
Video of firefighters fighting the blaze showed the car consumed by flames and completely destroyed in the attack.