Amiram Ben-Uliel was finally named and indicted for murder on Sunday as the central figure allegedly behind the July terrorist attack in Duma, along with a minor whose name remains under gag order.
The Central District Attorney’s Office filed indictments against the two with the Lod District Court, ending a fourmonth investigation that brought complaints from the Palestinians about the delay in cracking the case and criticism from the settler community for alleged torture used to interrogate the defendants.
Ben-Uliel, 21, has been charged with three counts of murder, attempted murder, arson and conspiracy to commit a racist-motivated felony for the arson attack on the Dawabsha family home that killed 18-month-old Ali and his parents, Sa’ad and Riham.
He could face multiple life sentences. The minor, it appears, will be charged with some lesser though still serious charges.
That minor also was indicted along with another minor and an adult in the same court on Sunday for other violent attacks against Arabs and their property. Police said the Duma investigation helped uncover the involvement of the others.
According to the latter indictments, the three were involved in the torching of the Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem in February; the attack of a Palestinian shepherd next to Kochav Hashahar in the West Bank; the torching of a Palestinian taxi in Kafr Yussuf; the burning of a warehouse in Akraba; and two incidents in which the tires of dozens of Palestinian cars were slashed in east Jerusalem.
It was unclear what the exact linkage of each of the three defendants was to the list of price tag and violent attacks, with a gag order blocking the publicizing of the indictment. The timing of the attacks was also not fully fleshed out, though it was noted that some occurred in February. In most of the cases, the attackers also spray-painted “price tag” or other phrases to cause the victims fear.
The three were charged with a range of offenses, including arson; purposely causing damage based on racist-motives; conspiracy to commit a felony; insulting a religion with racist-motives; and membership in a terrorist organization.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein and head State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan personally approved the indictments filed by prosecutors Rahel Avisar and Yael Atzmon.
The indictments against Ben-Uliel and the minor in the Duma case allege the following: Following the June murder of Malachi Rosenfeld in a West Bank terrorist attack the two discussed ways they could take revenge on Palestinians.
The two planned one attack on Duma and another for the nearby village of Majdal village, hoping to murder the residents of homes in those locations. Ben-Uliel prepared a backpack with two firebombs full of gasoline, a lighter, matches, gloves and spray-paint.
On July 30, Ben-Uliel, who the Justice Ministry said resides in Shiloh, but later changed to an outpost near Shiloh (though others say he and his family more recently lived in Jerusalem) left his house wearing heavy clothing and with the backpack to meet with the minor at Yishuv Hadaat.
When the minor did not show, Ben-Uliel, decided to perpetrate the attack on his own.
He traveled to Duma, tied part of a shirt around his face to function as a mask obscuring his identity and donned the gloves before seeking out a house that showed signs of people being present to ensure that he killed people inside rather merely burning an abandoned house.
Upon choosing the house of Mamoun Dawabsha, he spray-painted “revenge” and “long live the Messiah” on its walls before throwing a firebomb through the window with the intent to kill, but the house was empty.
He then moved on to the house of Sa’ad, Riham and Ali Dawabsha. After failing to open two different windows, he succeed in opening a third, which led to a bedroom where they were sleeping, and threw the second firebomb inside and the flames engulfed all four walls of the house. but at first failed to open two different windows for attacking the house with his second Molotov cocktail.
Eventually, he succeeded in finding a third window leading to the bedroom where the Dawabsha’s were sleeping and threw the Molotov cocktail inside there, after which it engulfed all four walls of the house in flames, eventually killing three of the four family members.
Ben-Uliel then fled the scene.
Itamar Ben Gvir, who is defending Ben-Uliel, sounded a defiant note following the indictments, saying he would attack the credibility of any confession his client supposedly gave the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), adding that any confession may have been obtained by torture.
Ben-Uliel’s parents, meanwhile, put out a video objecting to the accusations.
“We, the parents of Amiram, are shocked and horrified by the accusations attributed to our beloved son. We believe that the innocence of our son will be made clear in court and hope that the court uncovers the brutal torture that all of us have undergone in the weeks of interrogation.
We want to emphasize that we are against all violence and harm toward human beings.”
Response to the indictments was swift from both sides of the isle.
On the Right, the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, commended the justice system, saying: “It is now clear that these acts were perpetrated by a fringe group of anarchists bent on destroying the State of Israel and the freedom and justice it represents.”
It added that it “condemns these heinous acts of unadulterated murder and will continue to work together with the security forces to ensure a peaceful future for all the residents of Judea and Samaria.”
On the Left, MK Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), who heads the Lobby for the Fight Against “Price Tag” Acts, said: “The very fact of the knowledge that Jews perpetrated the horrendous terrorist attack is simply nauseating and they must be brought to justice like all other terrorists. MK [Bezalel] Smotrich needs to apologize, stop hiding behind obscure definitions and call a child by its name – there is Jewish terrorism.”
Meretz party leader Zehava Gal-on urged going even further.
“We cannot suffice with the filing of indictments against crimes terrifyingly perpetrated. We must arrest and question the rabbis under whose influence these racist hate crimes were planned and executed,” Gal-on said. “We must dry up the swamp of incitement from which the Jewish terrorist cell sprouts to prevent these crimes from ever occurring.”
The commander of the Judea and Samaria District, Shlomi Michaeli praised the cooperation of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and police in solving the “very complicated investigation” into the Duma attack, saying the issuance of the indictments shows “there are no shortcuts in the fight against terrorism.”
Meanwhile, late Sunday the Honenu NGO announced that Mordechai Meir, one of three settler activists placed in administrative detention in August just after the Duma attack, was being released to house arrest a month earlier than was originally set.
The NGO, which supports a variety of settler causes, proclaimed that the early release of Meir, while the other two activists remain in administrative detention, proved that the allegations of wrongdoing or his being dangerous were exaggerated.
In fact, the NGO went so far to claim that the Shin Bet had misled Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon about how dangerous Meir was in order to get him to sign off on the administrative detention.
The Shin Bet rejected the allegations on several grounds, stating that Meir “was connected to the terrorist organization regarding which several of its members were indicted for grave crimes today.”
It also emphasized the “immediate danger that” Meir represented when he was detained and that there “was intelligence of his involvement in the [ Jewish] terrorist organization,” the security agency said that “with the investigation concluded” and “after a fresh review of the danger presented by Meir” the decision was made to release him to house arrest and with a restraining order to stay out of the West Bank.
Honenu’s statement did not claim full knowledge of the intelligence possessed by the Shin Bet, while the Shin Bet did not specifically address why Meir was being released early versus the other two detainees at a time when the overall violence level has not decreased.
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.