Maximum sentence requested for Jewish settler in Duma arson case

Convicted of arson attack that killed three members of Dawabsheh family, Amiram Ben-Uliel will be sentenced next month.

Ahmed Dawabsha, the survivor of the arson attack that killed his parents and 18-month-old brother, sits in his grandparents home in the Israeli occupied West Bank village of Duma on May 18, 2020, afte
Ahmed Dawabsheh, the survivor of the arson attack that killed his parents and 18-month-old brother, sits in his grandparents' home in the Israeli occupied West Bank village of Duma [File: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP]

The lawyer for relatives of a murdered Palestinian family who were firebombed inside their house by a Jewish settler has requested the maximum sentencing, as the years-long case nears its end.

Saad and Riham Dawabsheh, along with their 18-month old son Ali, died in the arson attack carried out by Amiram Ben-Uliel while they slept in their home in the occupied West Bank village of Duma in July 2015. 

The family’s sole survivor in the attack was Ahmed Dawabsheh, who was four years old at the time and suffered second- and third-degree burns on more than 60 percent of his body.

“We demand three life sentences, in addition to an extra 40 years in prison for the settler, as well as a financial compensation of 260,000 shekels ($75,400) for each of the three victims,” family lawyer Omar Khamayseh told Al Jazeera on Tuesday after a court session in which family members gave their last testimony in the case.

Ben-Uliel was convicted last month of three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, two counts of arson and conspiracy to commit a racially motivated crime.

According to Israeli prosecutors, Ben-Uliel chose the Dawabsheh family home on the assumption it was inhabited, and threw a Molotov cocktail in one of the windows. Prior to that, he had spray-painted “Revenge” and “Long Live King Messiah” on the walls of the house.

His sentencing, Khamayseh said, will take place on July 12 at 6am (03:00 GMT) at the Lod (Lydda) District Court.

Tuesday’s court session was attended by Nasr Dawabsheh, Saad’s brother and Ahmed’s uncle.

“We’ve suffered so much in the last five years with the court proceedings,” Nasr Dawabsheh told Al Jazeera. “We had to apply for permits to be present at the court, which has had some 70 sessions. It was our resolve and determination that got the case to reach sentencing the criminal.”

Nasr Dawabsheh said the sentencing should act a deterrent for other settlers to think twice before attacking Palestinians, but added: “On a personal level, the sentencing will not mean much to us, the Dawabsheh family. It will not bring back Saad, or Riham or Ali.

“But we also don’t want another Dawabsheh case, and we don’t want another Palestinian child to go through the trauma that Ahmed is still suffering from.”

Ahmed Dawabsheh, who is now 10 years old, did not attend Tuesday’s court session.

“He refused to come,” his uncle said. “He does not want to see any settlers. He told me: ‘Even if I do attend, will you guarantee that I will stop having nightmares about him? As long as there are settlers around, I will never feel safe’.”

According to Israeli rights organisation Yesh Din, there is a very low percentage of indictments that result from ideological crimes committed by Israeli citizens and settlers against Palestinians or their property in the West Bank.

The organisation monitored 1,293 cases between 2005 and 2019 in the West Bank and found that a sweeping majority of these cases – 1,144, or 91 percent – were closed without any indictments. Only 8 percent of these cases (100) resulted in indictments, and the remaining eight were lost by the Israeli police and never investigated. 

“The failure to investigate crimes against Palestinians and the increase in the number of offenses committed indicate that the State of Israel fails to protect Palestinians and their property from harm, as it is required to do under international law, and that its attempts to investigate crimes committed in areas under its jurisdiction are futile,” Yesh Din said.

Source: Al Jazeera