After weeks of investigation by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Israel Police into the Duma arson attack that took the lives of a Palestinian toddler and his parents, authorities on Sunday charged Amiram Ben- Uliel with carrying out the murders, and a minor, “A.A.,” with helping plan the attack.
Ben-Uliel, 21, lived in a truck near the Adei Ad outpost in the Binyamin region of the West Bank, before moving to a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighborhood in Jerusalem.
But officials at the Shin Bet said on Sunday that to view the horrific Duma attack as one incident would be to miss the larger phenomenon behind this act of terrorism: the emergence, since October 2013, of an underground movement of dozens of Jewish fanatical activists, who have set themselves the goal of toppling the state, replacing it with a “Judean monarchy,” and building a third temple, while expelling non-Jews from the land and creating a fundamentalist theocracy led by a king.
The number of youths who subscribe to such ideas is very small – no more than a few dozen – but each one has the potential to carry out another attack and ignite the region, according to the Shin Bet. Today, between 20 and 30 potential terrorists are capable of carrying out a “second Duma,” the intelligence agency said on Sunday.
Today, intelligence and security personnel, as well as other public figures, face danger from members of this movement. These include efforts to ascertain the identity and location of members of the defense establishment, and attempts to gather intelligence on schools attended by their children.
Many of the ideas of this gang of fanatical activists, who, according to the Shin Bet investigation, celebrated when they heard that toddler Ali Dawabsha had burned to death in his crib, can be traced to the writing of Meir Ettinger, the grandson of the late Meir Kahane. Ettinger remains in administrative detention.
His ideas are completely divorced from the mainstream Zionist-religious ideology of the settlement movement, the Shin Bet said, and the youths had no contact with any rabbis when formulating their own ideology, though they were inspired by some writings by far-right rabbis.
A manifesto titled The Kingdom of Malice, written by activist Moshe Orbach, and obtained by the Shin Bet in July 2015, contains instructions for followers on how to evade intelligence tracking and how to avoid leaving behind forensic trails. It calls for the setting up of small cells across the country, made up of three to five operatives each, who would begin carrying out acts of violence. The document also contains detailed, practical instructions on how to commit sabotage and arson attacks using Molotov cocktails.
The Kingdom of Malice tells followers how to torch cars, mosques and homes, with inhabitants inside, and how to carry out acts of heinous murder.
Since such ideas began percolating among the most hardcore ideologues, who often congregated in small tents or cabin outposts in the Binyamin area of the West Bank, there has been a clear escalation in the severity of attacks on Palestinians, investigators found.
The Duma attack and two attacks on churches within the Green Line testify to this.
There is no hierarchical organization or coordination among these radicals, but rather, there are groups of individuals operating in accordance with the new ideology. The movement discourages communication between groups that carried out attacks, making it more difficult for the Shin Bet to track them down.
The fringe ideology envisages stages of operations, consisting of a first phase of organization of cells, followed by a second stage of attacks and spreading ideas.
This would be followed by a third stage, the start of a wider “rebellion” that would force the state to submit to the emerging “Judean monarchy.” A precise timetable for building a Third Temple in Jerusalem would follow.
The youths in this movement have no contact with their families, and have been excluded from their schools and yeshivot. They evade military service, and arrive at a few isolated West Bank hilltops, where they lead extremely simple lives, growing some of their food and living in the most basic of structures. They do not recognize Israeli authorities in any way, viewing the state as a “foreign enemy.”
The attacks that emerged, according to the Shin Bet, usually start with the youths sitting around in the evening, having dinner together.
“Then, a few would head out to commit a terrorist attack,” the agency said.
The Duma attack on July 31, according to the Shin Bet, was triggered by the July 30 Hamas terrorist shooting near Shvut Rachel, in the Binyamin region, that killed civilian Malachi Rosenfeld and wounded three others.
Ben-Uliel allegedly carried out the Duma arson as a revenge attack after A.A. agreed to meet him near the Yeshu Hada’at Farm outpost, located near Adei Ad.
On the night of the attack, at midnight on July 31, A.A. failed to show up at the meeting spot. Ben-Uliel allegedly decided to proceed by himself, entering Duma with Molotov cocktails, and selecting two homes deep inside the village for attack.
“He searched for significant homes, not the first home he found,” the Shin Bet said.
One of the homes he targeted contained the Dawabsha family; the family that lived in the other structure was out. After the attack Ben-Uliel returned to his home.
The Shin Bet has not ruled out the possibility that Ben-Uliel did not act alone.
However, it said that forensic evidence means that it can only charge one suspect for the arson at this time.
Ben-Uliel’s confession, the agency added, is supported by the evidence gathered at the scene.
In addition to Ben-Uliel, prosecutors charged three other suspects with other security offenses on Sunday.
A total of 32 suspects have been indicted so far on various security charges.
Security forces now say they are focused on preventing further Jewish terrorist attacks. To that end, the IDF and Israel Police set up a joint task force in the West Bank, carrying out nighttime patrols and enforcing banning orders that prohibit far-right activists from crossing the Green Line into Judea and Samaria.
The Shin Bet also said that its intelligence capabilities against small cells of extremists have improved in recent months.
Additionally, legislation is being prepared to allow courts to place electronic tracking bracelets around far-right suspects sent to house arrest.
“The tools and increased enforcement very much disrupted this [terrorist] organization from broadening its activities. But it did not prevent the continuation of attacks. Not all of the attacks have been solved,” the agency acknowledged.
“The consequences of a second or third Duma attack are clear to everyone. We are preventing terrorism here to all intents and purposes.”
The Shin Bet brushed off claims of abuse and torture of the suspects, stressing that its representatives have appeared in court to explain and account for the investigation no fewer than 120 times since November 25, when the investigation shifted from covert to overt mode.
“Even if someone was sent to house arrest, there were very good reasons for their arrest,” the agency said.
The threat, the Shin Bet said, “is an ongoing phenomenon.This gang is one of its expressions. A few dozen operatives remain, and they are capable of carrying out more attacks.”