Teen accomplice in deadly 2015 Jewish terror attack sentenced to 3.5 years

Relatively light sentence is due to plea bargain, which brought charges down from murder to conspiracy to commit arson, membership in a terror group

A Jewish terror suspect arrives to hear his verdict on his involvement in an arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma where three members of the Dawabshe family were killed, October 24, 2019. (Avshalom Shoshani/Flash90)
A Jewish terror suspect arrives to hear his verdict on his involvement in an arson attack in the West Bank village of Duma where three members of the Dawabshe family were killed, October 24, 2019. (Avshalom Shoshani/Flash90)

The Lod District Court sentenced an Israeli man convicted of taking part in a deadly 2015 Jewish terror attack against a Palestinian family to three and a half years in prison on Wednesday.

The man has not been named due to the fact that he was a minor at the time of the firebomb attack, in which three members of the Dawabsha family, including an 18-month-old, were killed. Wednesday’s sentencing hearing took place behind closed doors.

Given that he has already been detained since his arrest in 2018, the accomplice, who had reached a plea bargain with the prosecution, is likely to be released in around 10 months.

The minor was convicted for his involvement in the Duma firebombing, membership in a Jewish terror group, as well as several other so-called price tag revenge attacks against Palestinians.

In September 2015, right-wing extremist Amiram Ben Uliel and the teenage accomplice planned to attack Palestinians in the West Bank village of Duma as revenge for a terror attack in which a settler was shot earlier that month. The two agreed to meet beforehand on the night of the attack. When the younger accomplice failed to show up on time to the rendezvous point, Ben-Uliel decided to carry out the attack on his own, according to the indictment.

Under cover of darkness, Ben Uliel lobbed homemade explosives into the home of the Dawabsha family. Parents Saad, Riham, and their 18-month-old son Ali perished. Only the couple’s eldest son, Ahmed, survived, with terrible burns; he was 5 years old at the time.

Hussein Dawabsha (L) sits with his grandson Ahmad, 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)

The firebombing, considered one of the most brutal acts of Jewish terror in recent years, led to official promises to crack down on Jewish extremism in the West Bank, though critics say many Jewish terrorists still act with impunity.

Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali (Channel 2 screenshot)

Ben Uliel was sentenced on Monday to three life sentences plus 20 years. His lawyers have vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court, saying that the confessions that the court used to convict him were obtained either during torture or under fear of torture.

The State Attorney’s Office called Ben Uliel’s sentencing an “important message” that those who carry out ideologically motivated terror attacks would face “the full force of law.”

The relatively light sentence for the accomplice is the result of a plea bargain he reached with the State Prosecutor’s Office.

An official for the prosecution told The Times of Israel at the time that the state agreed to the plea arrangement because the teenager was not present during the Duma attack itself. No plea bargain was offered to Ben-Uliel.

“For an unknown reason, the accused did not succeed in [making it to] the planned meeting between the defendant and the other [defendant] that night,” the official quoted the indictment as stating.

As part of the plea bargain, the man confessed to membership in a Jewish terror group. He also acknowledged having carried out three other hate crimes targeting Palestinians: torching a garage next to a residence in the northern West Bank Palestinian village of Aqraba, torching a taxi in the nearby town of Yasuf, and slashing car tires in the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem.

Amiram Ben Uliel (L), the suspect in the Duma arson murder in July 2015 where three members of the Dawabshe family were killed, arrives for a court hearing in Lod on June 9, 2020. (Tomer Appelbaum, Haaretz)

According to Israeli law, the maximum sentence for arson is 15 years in prison.

Nonetheless, the accomplice’s lawyers said they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, said that they believed that the court had “been harsh with the minor.”

The Honenu legal aid organization, which has provided the accomplice’s legal defense, said that both the sentencing and the conviction were based on torture and classified information “on which [his lawyers] could not speak in his defense.”

In June 2018, the Lod District Court rejected some of the minor’s confessions after it was revealed that they had been provided under duress during Shin Bet interrogations.

“The court’s decision was entirely influenced by confidential Shin Bet information. This decision will not stand,” Edi Kedar, one of the accomplice’s lawyers, said in a statement.

Omar Khamaisi, a lawyer for the Dawabsha family, told The Times of Israel that more could have been done to deter future attacks. Nonetheless, Khamaisi said that the conviction was an important step forward.

“It is important that he was convicted for his membership in the terror group. We had hoped for more of a deterrent decision, however, one which would stop people from joining these Jewish terrorist organizations,” Khamaisi said. “Maybe five years, for example. But this is characteristic of the light punishments handed out in Israeli courts for such offenses.”

Jacob Magid contributed to this report. 

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