West Bank arson attack: ‘My heart is burned’

Palestinians gather to remember Saad Dawabsheh, the latest victim of a suspected Israeli settler attack in Duma.

Duma funeral
'Every Palestinian is my child, so it's not the first time that a crime has been committed against a child of mine,' Mohammed Dawabsheh said [Nigel Wilson/Al Jazeera]

Duma, occupied West Bank – Dozens of people sat in Saad Dawabsheh’s living room, waiting for his funeral to begin. The elders spoke softly to each other, while some younger women sobbed as they embraced.

The scene on Saturday was grimly familiar, as just a week earlier, residents in the Palestinian village of Duma said goodbye to Saad’s son, 18-month-old Ali, who was burned alive while he slept in his home – an attack believed to have been carried out by Israeli settlers.

Saad, 32, died on Saturday morning after being badly burned in the same arson attack.

“My heart is burned,” Saad’s mother, Rehab Zaid, told Al Jazeera. “I had my child [Saad] with me. He had dinner with me and his family before he went back to his home at midnight.” 

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Just a few hours after Rehab last saw her son, Saad’s house was firebombed. The father of two tried desperately to rescue his family during the attack – carrying out his four-year-old son, Ahmed, and his wife, Riham – but was unable to locate Ali in time. Saad sustained burns to 80 percent of his body in the attack.

“Since that day, everyone kept telling me not to worry, that Saad was going to be okay,” Rehab said. “I was living on that hope. But this is what God has chosen.”

Across the room, Saad’s father, Mohammed, sat on a plastic chair, his weathered face contorted in grief. Clutching a wooden walking stick, he scolded the sobbing women: “Why are you crying? Do you think crying will bring him back?”

Members of the Dawabsheh family were grief-stricken as they awaited the arrival of his body at their home in Duma [Nigel Wilson/Al Jazeera]
Members of the Dawabsheh family were grief-stricken as they awaited the arrival of his body at their home in Duma [Nigel Wilson/Al Jazeera]

Mohammed said the crime did not shock him, because he has gotten used to seeing Palestinians suffer in similar ways.

“Every Palestinian is my child, so it’s not the first time that a crime has been committed against a child of mine,” Mohammed told Al Jazeera.

Recounting how Saad tried to save his family, Mohammed said: “I am so proud of my son. He was such a caring son,” he added, tears forming in his eyes.

As Mohammed spoke, the sound of young men’s chanting wafted across the village. Saad’s body had arrived from the hospital, and the family was ushered outside to receive it. The body, wrapped in keffiyehs and Palestinian flags, was carried through the crowd and placed on two low tables.

It was a final chance for residents to say goodbye to a brother, cousin, uncle, and neighbour. Then, as quickly as it had arrived, the body was taken to the cemetery to be buried.

Saad’s older sister, Khawla, wept loudly as it was taken away.


by ”Ahmad

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“My beloved Saad. He was the best,” she told Al Jazeera. “He was my younger brother, the next in line after me. During his childhood he was very caring. When he used to visit my house, he always came with a gift and he always wanted to do better and show us that he cared.”

As the procession of hundreds of mourners moved from the house to the cemetery, flags of Palestinian political parties were held high. Women and children gathered on rooftops and balconies to pay their respects, while young men climbed walls and trees near the cemetery to observe the ceremony.

Attendee Ahmad Tibi, a member of the Israeli Knesset, noted that 15 Palestinian houses had been burned in recent years without any arrests being made, and blamed Israel’s political leaders for their inaction.

“We came here to Duma, which has become the temporary capital of Palestinian pain,” Tibi told Al Jazeera. “It was a heinous crime, but we are not surprised that it happened. We’re not only accusing the ones who were responsible for the crime. The prime minister and the government of Israel created an atmosphere that sends a message, that they [settlers] can commit crimes without being punished. It will happen again, because the Israeli government policy will not change.”

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Right-wing Jewish Israeli settlers have carried out attacks on Palestinian buildings, farms and religious sites for years. These attacks, which have come to be known as “price tag” attacks, are aimed at ensuring there is a price for Israeli government policies that they believe favour Palestinians.

The Israeli government has changed one policy since the arson attack: expanding its administrative detention tool to cover Jewish Israelis. The controversial measure has been used in the occupied West Bank to place Palestinians in jail for long periods without charges being filed against them. Mordechai Meyer, 18, a right-wing Israeli settler and activist, was recently placed under administrative detention, reportedly in relation to a June arson attack on a Christian church in Galilee. 

On Sunday morning, nine Israelis were arrested in two settlement outposts in northern West Bank by Israeli police and the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service. Two of the suspects were arrested at the settlement outpost of Adei Ad, close to Duma, according to local media reports, although it was not clear whether the arrests were linked to the Duma killings.

Israeli police were not immediately available for comment on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, for the Dawabsheh family, fear and uncertainty lingered over the wellbeing of Saad’s wife and son, Riham and Ahmed, who both remain in hospital in Israel. Ahmed, who sustained burns to 60 percent of his body, awoke briefly on Saturday in his hospital bed and communicated with family members, according to doctors. Riham, who sustained burns to 90 percent of her body, remains in critical condition at the Tel Hasomer hospital.

Source: Al Jazeera