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Israel charges 2 Jewish extremist in deadly arson

ISRAEL EXTREMEIsrael on Sunday charged two Jewish extremists in an arson attack that killed a Palestinian toddler and his parents last July – culminating a drawn-out investigation into a case that has helped fuel months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

The indictments came as Israel said it had broken up a ring of Jewish extremists wanted in a series of attacks on Palestinian and Christian targets. While Israel’s prime minister trumpeted the arrests as a victory for law and order, the charges drew criticism from Palestinians, who said they were too little and too late, and from the suspects’ relatives, who claimed their loved ones had been tortured by Israeli interrogators.

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While Israel has been dealing with a wave of vigilante-style attacks by suspected Jewish extremists in recent years, the deadly July 31 firebombing in the West Bank village of Duma sparked soul-searching across the nation. The attack killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh, while his mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali’s 4-year-old brother Ahmad survived and remains in an Israeli hospital.

The attack was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged “zero tolerance” in the fight to bring the assailants to justice. Investigators placed several suspects under “administrative detention,” a draconian measure typically reserved for Palestinian militants that allows authorities to hold suspects for months without charge.

“Enforcing the law is the life’s breath of democracy, of the rule of law. We are not restricting it to one sector and we are not focusing on only one sector,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday.
But critics have noted that lesser non-deadly attacks, such as firebombings that damaged mosques and churches, had gone unpunished for years.

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And as the investigation into the Duma attack dragged on, Palestinians complained of a double-standard, where suspected Palestinian militants are quickly rounded up and prosecuted under a military legal system that gives them few rights while Jewish Israelis are protected by the country’s criminal laws. At one point, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said there were difficulties in prosecuting because of lack of evidence.
When a wave of Palestinian attacks erupted last fall, many Palestinians pointed to the unsolved Duma attack as one of the main sources of frustration motivating attackers.

 

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