Police on Tuesday issued a highly unusual appeal to the public to come forward with any information that could help identify the perpetrators of Friday’s fatal firebombing in the West Bank in which a Palestinian baby was burned to death.
“Anyone with any information, any detail, that could help solve the murder is asked to call the hotline,” the Israel Police said in a statement, giving the phone number as 050-838-6626. Bizarrely, the public was invited to call only between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
A gag order has been imposed on the investigation, and there have been no reports of arrests in connection with the attack.
The two perpetrators of the firebombing, in which 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha was burned to death in his home early on Friday morning, were reported over the weekend to be right-wing Jewish extremists, possibly from an illegal outpost in the east Shilo area of the West Bank, not far from the Palestinian village of Duma where the attack took place.
Security sources told Israel’s Channel 10 on Saturday that residents of illegal outposts in that area had “a history” of hostile relations with local Palestinian villages.
The two assailants were understood to have fled the scene of the crime on foot.
On Friday evening, Channel 2 reported that there was “the beginning of a lead” in the investigation. According to the report, the assailants were believed to have come from the area of the nearby Esh Kodesh settlement outpost, “but not from Esh Kodesh itself.”
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. Ali was killed in the attack, and his parents and brother were seriously injured. Father Saad has burns on 80 percent of his body, mother Riham is suffering from burns over 90% of her body, and four-year-old Ahmad has 60% burns. All remain hospitalized in Israel.
On Sunday, the Israeli government approved the use of administrative detention and all other appropriate means to track down and hold suspects in the case.
On Monday, Meir Ettinger, the grandson of murdered Israeli-American far-right activist Meir Kahane, was arrested in connection to extremist activity. He has not been publicly linked to Friday’s attack.
Security officials have 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.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking by phone to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, pledged to catch the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Netanyahu told Abbas that he has instructed security forces to go to “every length” to locate and arrest the perpetrators.
On Saturday, the PA announced that it viewed the murderers as fugitives and that it had instructed its own security forces to search for them.