Palestinian made up account of Jewish arson attack, police say

Investigators find no evidence that Israeli settlers graffitied, then set fire to the home of a West Bank man

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: "Death to Arabs" spray painted on a house in Khirbet abu Falah on November 23, 2104. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Illustrative: "Death to Arabs" spray painted on a house in Khirbet abu Falah on November 23, 2104. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A Palestinian who claimed to be the victim of a hate crime, reporting earlier this month that Jewish settlers had torched his West Bank home, was found to have fabricated the story, police said Tuesday.

Military prosecutors have opened an investigation into the report filed by the man, who now faces charges of obstruction of justice, making false claims to authorities and violating public order, according to a statement from police.

Earlier this month, the man, a resident of the Bethlehem-area town of al-Khader, told Israeli authorities that Jewish settlers had graffitied “Death to Arabs” on a wall near his family’s home before setting fire to their property.

He claimed a group of five Jewish youths also shouted profanities and threw rocks at him. His father corroborated the account, and told investigators he had seen the teens in the area a day earlier.

Following the complaint, officers opened an investigation into the incident. Fearing it could have been a “price tag” incident, another in a long line of attacks on Palestinians by extremist Jewish settlers, police took the man’s complaint very seriously and poured “considerable means” into the investigation, Israel Police spokesperson Luba Samri said Tuesday.

However, she added, investigators found no flammable material or forensic evidence at the scene to corroborate the man’s claims. In a statement, Samri added that investigators also found that there were “substantial” discrepancies between the man’s account and eyewitness testimonies.

Illustrative photo of a vehicle that was allegedly torched by Israeli settlers in a 'price tag' attack, June 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a vehicle that was allegedly torched by Israeli settlers in a ‘price tag’ attack, June 2013. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The man was arrested and the case turned over to military prosecutors. A military court in the West Bank has remanded him until early next month, with prosecutors expected to indict him in the coming weeks.

Attacks against Palestinians, though not generally as severe or as numerous as Palestinian attacks on Israelis, have long been a problem in the West Bank. While Israeli leaders roundly condemn the attacks, authorities have come under fire for failing to prevent or properly investigate the hate crimes.

Earlier this year, Israeli prosecutors filed indictments against two Jewish suspects, 21-year old Amiram Ben-Uliel of Jerusalem and an unnamed minor, over a July 2015 terror attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family.

The firebombing killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsha, and his parents Riham and Saad several weeks later. Five-year-old Ahmed Dawabsha, Ali’s brother, remains hospitalized in Israel with severe burns, and faces a long rehabilitation.

Ben-Uliel was indicted for murder; the minor, who is not alleged to have directly participated in the fire-bombing, was charged as an accomplice.

The indictments marked a key breakthrough in the case, which had led to an unprecedented crackdown against Jewish terror suspects, including a decision to extend to Israeli citizens counterterrorism practices such as detention without charge.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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