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Ya’alon: We know who firebombed Palestinians, justice is coming

Defense minister defends lack of progress on solving Duma attack that killed Dawabsha family, says his earlier comments on issue were taken out of context

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (left, in white shirt) being interviewed by Army Radio ahead of the Sukkot holiday, in the Defense Ministry's sukka in Tel Aviv. (Diana Hananshvili/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (left, in white shirt) being interviewed by Army Radio ahead of the Sukkot holiday, in the Defense Ministry's sukka in Tel Aviv. (Diana Hananshvili/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday said Israeli officials knew who carried out a deadly firebombing attack on a Palestinian family and that the perpetrators would be brought to justice eventually.

Israeli officials have faced criticism over the fact that no suspects have been arrested in the July 31 arson attack, which left two parents and an 18-month old baby dead and a four-year-old boy severely injured, apparently carried out by Jewish terrorists.

“We know which group is responsible for the despicable murder of the family in the village of Duma. We do not have enough evidence to put people to trial at this point, but I am convinced we will have them in the future,” Ya’alon told Army Radio on Sunday morning.

Ya’alon was reported earlier this month to have said that Israel knew who the suspects were, but could not prosecute them without revealing sensitive information.

Duma firebombing victims Saad and Riham Dawabsha, and baby Ali. (Channel 2 screenshot)
Duma firebombing victims Saad and Riham Dawabsha, and baby Ali. (Channel 2 screenshot)

He was asked to clarify the comments and to explain why there had been no movement on the case, despite the relative speed by which Israel had charged four Palestinian teens with the rock-throwing killing of an Israeli motorist, Alexander Levlovitz, over the New Year holiday just two weeks ago.

Speaking to Army Radio in a special program for the Sukkot holiday, Ya’alon was reminded of his comments from September 10, and asked why nothing has been done to arrest the killers.

“These comparisons [to Levlovitz’s killing] and inaccurate quotes – someone extracted them from what I said,” he said.

Ya’alon said the crackdown he had authorized against Jewish extremists in the West Bank was “draconian,” but had thus far been successful in preventing more killings.

“Of course, this does not justify the other side in throwing rocks that are as deadly as a terror attack, as regrettably happened to Alexander Levlovitz on the eve of Rosh Hashanah,” he said.

Palestinian women argue with Israeli policemen during a protest against Jewish groups visiting the Temple Mount which houses the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on September 16, 2015. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
Palestinian women argue with Israeli policemen during a protest against Jewish groups visiting the Temple Mount which houses the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on September 16, 2015. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)

The defense minister also accused the Islamist groups of attempting to exacerbate tensions on the Temple Mount, speaking shortly after Israeli police clashed with Palestinians amid ongoing tensions surrounding the site.

“The Temple Mount is a focal point where Islamic movements, including the Israeli Islamic Movement, and Hamas are trying to fan the flames. There are other players trying to bank on it, naturally, for religious purposes. A lot of false propaganda relates to the Temple Mount. We are keeping the status quo, and they claim we are violating the status quo and inflame the scene,” Ya’alon said.

Clashes at the site, which is revered by both Muslims and Jews, have been ongoing since before Rosh Hashanah, when police raided the Temple Mount to prevent a planned Palestinian riot.

Ya’alon accused politicians of using the clashes to spark unrest as far away as Gaza and further.

“We are doing everything we can to calm the situation on the one hand, but we are very determined and tough against all the players who use terrorism, whether with stones, Molotov cocktails or in any way,” he added.

The minister also acknowledged an IDF commander had erred in destroying a journalist’s camera on Friday, an incident for which the soldier had been relieved of duty.

Ya’alon emphasized that the incident was an exception, not the norm.

“The army is a big army, there are also many soldiers on duty in reserve service. The orders are clear, the values are also clear; this does not mean mistakes aren’t made, or that a situation is assessed incorrectly and the wrong decision taken,” he said. “This seems to be what happened, and it is being examined. The army has already made a public announcement that [the incident] is against spirit and orders of the IDF, but at the bottom line, the IDF is disciplined and ethical, and when there are exceptions we deal with them.”

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