Ben Uliel to appeal. Judge: He hasn't taken responsibility

Jewish terrorist gets 3 life terms for killing Palestinian family in 2015 arson

Court says Amiram Ben Uliel firebombed Dawabsha family’s West Bank home, killing baby and his parents, due to ‘extreme and racist ideology’

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Amiram Ben Uliel in the Lod District Court on May 18, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Pool Photo via AP)
Amiram Ben Uliel in the Lod District Court on May 18, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Pool Photo via AP)

An Israeli man found guilty of carrying out a deadly 2015 firebombing that killed an 18-month-old Palestinian boy and his parents was sentenced on Monday to three life sentences.

Handing down the sentence, the Lod District Court said Amiram Ben Uliel, 26, committed the attack out of “extreme and racist ideology.”

Ben Uliel, along with a teenage accomplice, were convicted previously over the 2015 arson attack in Duma. The attack, one of the most brutal acts of Jewish terror in recent years, claimed the lives of Sa’ad and Riham Dawabsha and their 18-month-old son Ali. Five-year-old Ahmed was the lone survivor of the attack.

The accomplice will be sentenced on Wednesday.

Apart from the life sentences, Ben Uliel also got 20 additional years behind bars for injuring Ahmed and for firebombing a second, empty home. He was ordered to compensate Ahmed Dawabsha and the owner of the second home with NIS 258,000 ($75,000) each. 

The judge wrote in the decision that Ben Uliel “has not taken responsibility for his actions.”

Ben Uliel’s attorneys said they will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Ben Uliel confessed to the attack on several occasions during his interrogation by the Shin Bet security agency. Some of those confessions, however, were thrown out by the court in 2018 after judges determined they had been given either during or immediately after he had undergone “enhanced interrogation,” or torture.

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)

Ben Uliel, a father of one, was convicted in May on three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson, but acquitted on the charge of membership in a terror organization.

According to the conviction, Ben Uliel and the teenage accomplice had planned to carry out an attack against Palestinians as revenge for a drive-by shooting days earlier in which Israeli civilian Malachy Rosenfeld was killed.

When the younger accomplice failed to show up on time at the rendezvous point in July 2015, Ben Uliel decided to carry out the attack on his own. He entered the Duma village and sprayed Hebrew graffiti on one home, then hurled Molotov cocktails through the windows of a pair of homes. The first building was empty. The second was the home of the Dawabsha family, who were asleep.

The teenage accomplice, whose name is barred from publication as he was a minor at the time of the incident, reached a plea agreement with the State Prosecutor’s Office last May in which he admitted to having planned the torching of the Dawabsha home.

The prosecution has asked the court not to sentence the accomplice to more than five and a half years in prison. Deducted from the sentence will be the time the teenager has already spent behind bars — about two and a half years.

The court last week rejected a bid by defense attorneys to overturn Ben Uliel’s conviction, claiming that interviews given by Ahmed Dawabsha, now 10, to Al Jazeera in January of this year contradicted evidence the court had used to convict Ben Uliel.

But the court ruled that the interviews could not be used to establish what happened on the night of the attack. The defense is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court, according to Army Radio.

Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali. All three died when the Dawabsha home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed, by suspected Jewish extremists, on July 31, 2015 (Channel 2 screenshot)

While Ben Uliel has been convicted of carrying out the crime alone, Ahmed appeared to refute that, saying multiple settlers were present at the scene.

Ahmed later told Al Jazeera that when he fled the burning house the settlers aimed weapons at him and fired, sending bullets ricocheting off the wall behind him. He pointed at where they supposedly fired during the interview.

The court case did not involve any evidence of gunfire in the incident.

Hussein Dawabsha (L) sits with his grandson Ahmed, the survivor of the arson attack that killed his parents and 18-month-old brother, in the West Bank village of Duma on May 18, 2020. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Judge Ruth Lorch ruled that Ahmed’s young age as well as the intense physical and emotional trauma he underwent that same night cast doubts on his ability to faithfully recall what had taken place.

Jacob Magid and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report. 

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