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Israel charges 2 Jewish extremists in deadly arson

Published:Monday | January 4, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


Israel yesterday charged two Jewish extremists in an arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents last July - culminating a drawn-out investigation into a case that has helped fuel months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The indictments came as Israel said it had broken up a ring of Jewish extremists wanted in a series of attacks on Palestinian and Christian targets. While Israel's prime minister trumpeted the arrests as a victory for law and order, the charges drew criticism from Palestinians, who said they were too little and too late, and from the suspects' relatives, who claimed their loved ones had been tortured by Israeli interrogators.

While Israel has been dealing with a wave of vigilante-style attacks by suspected Jewish extremists in recent years, the deadly July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma sparked soul-searching across the nation. The attack killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh, while his mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali's 4-year-old brother Ahmad survived and remains in an Israeli hospital.

The attack was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged "zero tolerance" in the fight to bring the assailants to justice. Investigators placed several suspects under "administrative detention," a draconian measure typically reserved for Palestinian militants that allows authorities to hold suspects for months without charge.

"Enforcing the law is the life's breath of democracy, of the rule of law. We are not restricting it to one sector and we are not focusing on only one sector," Netanyahu told his Cabinet yesterday.