A Palestinian infant killed in a Molotov cocktail attack apparently carried out by Jewish terrorists was laid to rest Friday afternoon in the West Bank village of Duma, following Friday prayers in the local mosques.
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah joined mourners at the funeral for 18-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsha. Several thousand people also took to the streets in Duma for the funeral of the toddler, whose body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag as he was carried to the grave site.
The child was killed and the rest of his family badly burned when their home was set alight in Duma, south of Nablus, in the early hours of Friday morning. The Hebrew words “Revenge” and “Long live the king messiah” were spray-painted on their walls, alongside a Star of David.
An initial probe indicated that two attackers smashed windows at the home and threw petrol bombs inside.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday to express his and the Israeli people’s shock at the attack, and vowed to catch the perpetrators.
Israel’s security forces were placed on the second highest alert in Jerusalem and the West Bank on Friday, anticipating protests in the wake of the attack.
The rest of the Dawabsha family — the infant’s parents, Saad and Riham, and 4-year-old brother Ahmad — were being treated at two hospitals in Israel, suffering from burns to large parts of their bodies. Dr. Amit Frenkel, a senior doctor at the intensive care unit of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, told Army Radio on Friday that the father is in critical condition there.
“A burn victim arrived at the hospital in very serious condition, sedated and on a respirator,” he said. “After he was initially stabilized, we transferred him to intensive care where his condition is classified as critical.”
Lee Gat, a spokeswoman for Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv, said Riham had life-threatening burns over 90 percent of her body while her 4-year-old son Ahmad had burns over 60 percent of his body. The lives of both were said to be in danger.
Neighbor and relative Muhammad Dawabsha told Army Radio that he saw the attackers in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
“I saw Saad lying on the ground, his body on fire and his wife the same, burning,” he said. “One man stood over him and the other over his wife — both were masked.” There was no confirmation of this account.
“I never imagined that this could happen, that someone could come and burn people alive while they are sleeping,” said Hassan Dawabsha, the slain child’s uncle. “I don’t know what those people were thinking. What do they have inside their hearts and minds?”
Two Duma homes — one belonging to the Dawabsha family, and the other, which was empty at the time — were set on fire by the unidentified assailants.
The parents woke up and tried to get their children out of the house, but were unable to save their youngest son. Local residents said four men were seen fleeing the scene in the direction of the nearby settlement of Ma’ale Efraim. An initial probe indicated two assailants, Channel 2 reported Friday evening.
The Israel Defense Forces condemned what it branded a “terror attack,” and pledged to find the perpetrators.
Following a situation assessment with the head of the Shin Bet internal security service, the commander of the IDF Central Command and other defense officials, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkott ordered a series of measures in the West Bank in an effort to prevent a further deterioration in the security situation.
Security was intensified along main roads in the West Bank to prevent any attempts to attack Israeli vehicles. The defense establishment also braced for riots and disturbances in East Jerusalem and in the territories at the end of Friday prayers on the Temple Mount. Police restricted the entry of Muslim worshipers to Friday prayers at the Temple Mount to men over the age of 50 and women. Jerusalem police also bolstered its numbers ahead of Friday prayers, deploying officers throughout the Old City. In the event, the prayers dispersed relatively peacefully, with one man arrested and some minor incidents of stone throwing reported.
The IDF deployed four battalions in the West Bank area and placed two more on standby at their bases, Israel Radio said.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, some 2,000 protesters clashed with Israeli security forces at a previously planned demonstration, the military said. It added that forces fired into the rock-throwing crowd after it did not disperse and “a hit was confirmed,” without elaborating — a reference to someone being shot.
The Palestinian Authority security forces were also preparing for demonstrations and marches at the end of Friday prayers in Palestinian areas of the West Bank, Israel Radio said. In an official statement, Hamas called on the Palestinian public to demonstrate en masse Friday in response to the attack in Duma, and to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
A Palestinian security source said that the PA forces were to be deployed outside mosques where Hamas was planning to hold demonstrations. He said it would be impossible to prevent the Hamas demonstrations during a “Day of Rage”, but PA forces would not allow the organization to raise its flags during the protests.
Hamas said Friday that the attack “makes the occupier’s soldiers and settlers legitimate targets everywhere.”
‘Zero tolerance for terrorism’
Netanyahu on Friday visited the children’s intensive care unit at Sheba Hospital where 4-year-old Ahmad was being treated. He again called the attack an act of terror and vowed to track down the perpetrators.
“I just came from the bedside of four-year old Ahmad Saad,” Netanyahu said. “Sixty percent of his body is burned. We’re doing everything we can to save this young boy, give him a life. His two parents are in other parts of the Israeli health system. We’re trying to give them the best treatment to save their lives,” he said.
“When you stand next to the bed of this small child, and his infant brother had been so brutally murdered, we’re shocked, we’re outraged. We condemn this. There is zero tolerance for terrorism wherever it comes from, whatever side of the fence it comes from, we have to fight it and fight it together. I spoke to President Abu Mazen [Abbas] right before I entered the hospital. I told him of this visit and of Israel’s absolute commitment to find the perpetrators, bring them to justice,” Netanyahu continued.
“We have to calm the spirits and recommit ourselves to our joint battle against terrorism and extremism. It’s something that all parts of the Israeli government and all parts of Israeli society agree on. It’s important that we make a common cause with our Palestinian neighbors to give ourselves a better future – a future free of violence, free of terror, a future of peace.”
Netanyahu told Abbas on Friday that those behind the attack “are terror groups, we will arrest them and put them on trial,” Palestinian officials told the Times of Israel.
Officials also said that the Palestinian leadership was expected to convene Friday night and was likely make a decision on whether to demand that the UN Security Council condemn Israel for the killing of Ali Dawabsha and for ongoing settlement construction.
Abbas said Friday that he wants the International Criminal Court to probe the attack as one of its first investigations into Israeli war crimes against Palestinians. Al Jazeera reported.
“Every day we wake up to a similar crime. This is a war crime and a tragedy at the same time. Therefore we will not stay still. Absolutely not. As long as the settlement and the occupation are there,” Abbas said.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Friday that Israel would not allow “Jewish terrorists” to carry out such acts.
“We will not allow Jewish terrorists to harm the lives of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria,” he said in a statement. “We will fight against them firmly and with all means and tools at our disposal.”
Israel’s Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan invoked the Holocaust in denouncing the arson attack. “We have a lot of lessons to learn as a society as a result of the incidents of last night,” said Erdan. “The signs point to this attack being carried out by Jews. A nation whose children were burned in the Holocaust needs to do a lot of soul-searching if it bred people who burn other human beings.”
President Reuven Rivlin also visited Ahmad Dawabsha in hospital on Friday, and spoke with members of the family who were by his side.
Rivlin asked the father’s uncle, who was with Ahmad, to express his deepest condolences to the family, and said that at this difficult time, the entire people were praying for their well-being, and that the security forces were working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of terrible attack to justice.
“We awoke this morning to a day of sorrow, I feel a sense of shame, and moreover a sense of pain,” said the president in a statement after his visit. “Pain over seeing a child, whose brother was burned, and whose parents are fighting for their lives. It is difficult to see that there are those within my people capable of such acts. The shame is great, though the pain is greater. It must be understood by both sides that terror cannot be allowed in our region. It is not enough simply to talk about the need to fight terror – we need to fight terror. What we demand of our neighbors, from those with whom we fight, from those who have been our enemies for over a century – to bring an end to terrorism – we must also demand of ourselves.”