Suspected arson destroys house in Duma

Police doubt settlers responsible for fire that leveled home of witness to fatal 2015 attack

Fire damages the West Bank home of main witness in Dawabshe family torching case
A fire tore through a Palestinian house in Duma, near Nablus, on Sunday morning, in what police and Shin Bet investigators are probing as a possible arson attack.
An official with the Judea and Samaria police said Sunday afternoon that the cause of the fire that destroyed the house of Ibrahim Muhammad Dawabsha was still unclear, and that they had yet to determine definitively that it was arson. The official said that investigators are checking all possible motives, including an attack by Israeli extremists or a local feud of some sort involving the family.
In a statement put on Sunday evening the Shin Bet and the police said that their initial findings were not consistent with a nationally motivated Jewish terror attack.
Police reported that one Palestinian was taken from the scene suffering from smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported.
Nasr Dawabsha, whose brother Saed was killed together with his wife and son in the first arson attack last year, said he and many villagers had no doubt that the latest arson was carried out by settlers.
Asserting that the 23-yearold Ibrahim was the sole witness of the first attack, he said that those who set the house on fire on Sunday sought to prevent him from testifying at the trial of the main suspect.
Ibrahim’s wife, who was inside the house at the time of the attack, said that Israeli security personnel had previously warned her husband to take precautionary measures out of fear for his life.
She said that her family members have been hearing “strange noises” near their home for several weeks now.
“We have been living under stress for the past few weeks,” she added.
The Judea and Samaria police official denied the claim that the house belonged to a key witness in the case or that it involved testimony that was crucial to the case.
Police would not comment further on the case due to a sweeping gag order they secured on Sunday that bans reporting any details of the investigation.
Palestinian Authority Civil Defense organization officials said they rushed to the village early in the morning after being notified that one of the houses was on fire.
They said that their preliminary investigation showed that the fire started at the master bedroom and spread to other parts of the house, causing extensive damage.
They said that their investigation showed that the fire was the result of foul play.
Col. Malek Alya of the PA Civil Defense organization told reporters that his men found evidence of highly flammable materials that had been tossed into the bedroom through one of the windows.
The window was smashed with a tool before the materials were thrown into the bedroom, he added.
“We hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the crimes in Duma,” said PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat.
“Israel has yet to convict those responsible for the murders of Saed, [his wife] Reham and [son] Ali Dawabsha.
This has become common practice by the Israeli government, as was the case in the 2014 gruesome murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, whose murderers were held under house arrest or in a mental facility, with little or no security supervision.”
Erekat said that Israel’s “disregard for the gravity of these atrocious crimes reflects both the Israeli culture of impunity and the international community’s free license granted to Israel to systematically disregard international law.”
The PA Ministry of Information condemned the arson as “double terrorism,” saying it was “proof of the insistence of the ‘occupation state’ to repeat its gruesome crimes.”
The ministry rejected claims that the latest arson was the result of local differences.
PLO Executive Committee member also issued a strong condemnation of the arson and accused the “‘fascist government’ of Benjamin Netanyahu of protecting ‘extremist settlers.’” Hamas also issued condemnations of the arson and accused Israel of practicing “state terrorism” against the Palestinians.
In January, 21-year-old Amiram Ben-Uliel and a minor were indicted on three counts of murder for killing 18-month-old Ali Dawabshe and his parents.
Uliel’s attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir said in a statement to the press that his client was innocent and that they believed the fire that killed the three members of the Dawabsha family in July 2015 was part of an ongoing feud in the village.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.