Former defense minister Moshe Yaalon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A Jewish terrorist cell that allegedly carried out the deadly arson attack on a Palestinian home in Duma on July 31 is a significantly bigger threat than far-right “price tag” activists, and is not connected to hilltop youth who routinely spray-paint hate messages, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said on Thursday.
“Their aim is to cause a flare-up in the security situation on the ground,” Ya’alon told reporters during a meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. “We decided that administrative attention and banning orders [restricting access to the West Bank] are the steps we need to take, so that there will be no more terrorist attacks,” he added.
A media ban is in place, prohibiting the publication of details of the investigation into the firebombing in the village southeast of Nablus.
Acknowledging that administrative detention is “draconian,” Ya’alon said the security establishment had little choice in the matter, explaining that its top priority is preventing loss of life and a deterioration in the security situation.
“We believe we know who carried out the attacks,” Ya’alon added.
The defense minister recounted how, when he was commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division in 1992 and 1993, security forces placed 59 members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist organization in administrative detention for a few years, based on intelligence that connected them to Kalashnikov rifles used in a spate of deadly shootings. The arrests were made despite the lack of sufficient legal evidence for a trial.
After their release, many of the terrorists “went back” to carrying out attacks, Ya’alon said, hinting at the life-saving effect of the procedure.
Rumors have circulated among settlers and rightwing activists since the attack that the arson was actually the result of a feud in the village.
On Tuesday, a security official dismissed such reports.
He told reporters that he knew “without a doubt” that Jewish extremists had torched two homes in Duma. He would not explain, however, how he knew that.
Within hours of the attack, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ya’alon stated clearly that it was a terrorist attack carried out by Jewish extremists and immediately gave security forces permission to use administrative detention to root out the perpetrators.
Dozens of right-wing activists have been arrested and released since then, but only three have been held under administrative detention orders.
Last Sunday night, Reham Dewabsha, 26, died at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer of burn wounds she sustained in that attack. She was buried in Duma on Monday.
Her husband, Sa’ad, 31, died of burn wounds a week after the attack and their 18-month-old son was killed immediately after the blaze broke out.
Their other son, Ahmed, aged four, is recovering from his injuries at Sheba Medical Center.