Prosecutors filed indictments Sunday against two Jewish suspects, 21-year old Amiram Ben-Uliel of Jerusalem and an unnamed minor, in a July terror attack that killed three members of a Palestinian family.
On July 31, a firebomb attack on the home of the Dawabsha family in the West Bank village of Duma led to the immediate death of toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha. Parents Riham and Saad succumbed to their wounds in the hospital within weeks of the attack. Five-year-old Ahmed, Ali’s brother, remains hospitalized in Israel and faces a long rehabilitation.
The indictments mark a key breakthrough in the case, which shocked Israelis and led to unprecedented measures against Jewish terror suspects, including a cabinet vote to extend to Israeli citizens counter-terrorism practices such as detention without trial.
A court-imposed gag order that has been in place for months was lifted Sunday, allowing for the first time the publication of the chief suspect’s name.
Ben-Uliel is charged with murder in the Duma attack. The minor — who cannot be named under rules protecting minors suspected of criminal acts — faces charges of accessory to the murder.
According to investigators, Ben-Uliel, who is married with a baby girl, admitted to carrying out the Duma firebombing, and said he did it to avenge the killing of Malachy Rosenfeld by a Palestinian terrorist in June.
His parents said he was innocent, and his wife said he had been tortured and that the entire case was “lies.”
The minor, identified only as Aleph Aleph, confessed to helping to plan the firebombing, security officials said.
The Israel Police on Sunday released a statement revealing that the suspects not only confessed to the firebombing, among other “nationalistic” crimes, but that Ben Uliel reenacted the attack for investigators. Sources quoted on Israel TV Sunday night said he revealed details of the attack during the re-enactment that only the perpetrator could have known.
Citing the investment of “considerable resources and cooperation between various law enforcement agencies in Israel,” the statement said that several suspects were also being investigated for attempting to obstruct the investigation.
Five other suspected Jewish terrorists were charged Sunday over six other attacks against Arab persons or property.
Yinon Reuveni, Hanoch Ganiram and three unnamed minors were indicted for an arson attack against Jerusalem’s Dormition Abbey, the burning of a Palestinian taxi in the West Bank village of Yasuf, setting fire to a grain silo in the West Bank village of Akraba, two instances of tire-slashing in the Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa, and an assault on a Palestinian shepherd near the West Bank settlement of Kochav Hashahar.
The indictments of all five suspects were filed in the Lod District Court Sunday.
During the investigation, twenty-three other suspected extremists were implicated in attacks and acts of vandalism against Palestinians and could be indicted in the future, the Shin Bet said.
Prosecutors sought to remand the suspects for the duration of the investigation. The defendants’ attorneys said the court should release them to house arrest, saying close oversight of the security services would ensure they could not pose a danger to the public. Some of the suspects have been released to house arrest.
An attorney for several of the suspects, Itamar Ben Gvir, himself a well-known extremist activist, said the suspects’ confessions were obtained through illegal torture.
“The indictment is not the end of the story, but the opening of a Pandora’s box for the Shin Bet… My clients are innocent. My client only confessed because he was broken in the Shin Bet interrogation,” which Ben Gvir insisted included “severe abuse.”
The Shin Bet has stridently rejected criticism of its methods, saying in recent weeks that its interrogations were conducted with the full approval and oversight of the attorney general and High Court of Justice, as well as political leaders. The suspects faced “moderate physical pressure” legal in such terror investigations, the agency said, but were never subjected to the beatings, sexual assaults and other extreme measures alleged by Ben Gvir and other supporters.
Israel’s Channel 10 said Sunday night that Ben-Uliel was subjected to several hours of “physical pressure,” approved by the attorney general, at a crucial point of the investigation.
Other criticism on Sunday, including from the far right, focused on the suspects themselves.
While noting that the Duma case is “unique,” Jewish Home lawmaker Moti Yogev insisted the suspects indicted Sunday hold “a twisted worldview according to which the murder of children will destabilize and destroy the state and bring about redemption. This is a view that does not come from the Torah, a view that has abandoned faith, the nation and the state.”
Yogev defended the Shin Bet, saying that “the pain of the interrogations flows from the perpetrators themselves, who sadly have thrown off all legal, parental or rabbinic authority. This case has only pain and sadness. Sadness for the murdered Dawabsha family; sadness for the parents of the perpetrators, who did not raise their sons to this, felt the pain of their interrogations and lost any hope for their future; and sadness and pain for our religious-Zionist community, which didn’t know how to lead these sons of ours [toward a better outcome],” Yogev said in a statement.
Following the Duma attack, authorities launched a massive arrest operation against radical right-wing activists. According to a list maintained by a group of supporters on Facebook, almost 100 alleged far-right Jewish extremists are currently either being questioned by the Shin Bet security service, facing legal action, in jail, or subject to IDF orders restricting their access to the West Bank.
Israeli security chiefs and politicians have warned that dozens of far-right Orthodox extremists — allegedly behind a series of hate crimes including the murder of the Dawabsha family — are seeking to destroy the State of Israel and replace it with a religious monarchy.