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Dawabsha family sues Israel for compensation over deadly Duma arson

May 8, 2017 3:26 P.M. (Updated: May 8, 2017 10:40 P.M.)
Relatives carry the body of Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha, through the streets of the West Bank village of Duma during his funeral on July 31, 2015. (AFP/Thomas Coex, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Relatives of the Dawabsha family, three of whose members died in an arson attack committed by Israeli settlers in 2015, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the state of Israel seeking compensation for the murders.

The high-profile attack sparked outrage in July 2015, when extremist Israeli settlers set fire to a house in the northern occupied West Bank village of Duma, killing 18-month-old Ali and his parents Riham and Saad Dawabsha, and leaving then-four-year-old Ahmad Dawabsha the sole survivor.

Ahmad Dawabsha was hospitalized for almost a year to treat the severe burns he sustained all over his body and face.

Two Israelis were indicted for murder for the arson in January 2016, although they have yet to be sentenced, while a Jewish extremist arrested over suspicions of being tied to the case was released in June 2016.

The lawsuit comes a week after remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said that six-year-old Ahmad did not qualify as a “terror victim” because he was not an Israeli citizen, and was therefore not eligible for compensation from the Israeli government.

The Times of Israel reported that the Israeli Defense Ministry had offered that the Dawabsha family submit a request for compensation to an inter-ministerial committee, but that the family had decided to sue the state instead.

According to Israeli news outlet Ynet, the Dawabsha family was now requesting some 10 million shekels ($2.77 million) in compensation as part of the lawsuit.

Israel’s Channel 2 quoted Tawfiq Muhammad, a representative from the al-Mezan Center for Human Rights as saying that the Dawabsha family would present its lawsuit to the magistrate's court in Nazareth.

"The Dawabsha family holds the Israeli government fully responsible for the terrorist attack which killed a father, a mother, and infant Ali Dawabsha, and left a child, Ahmad Dawabsha with serious burns," Muhammad said. "We will sue the state of Israel for compensation, because we see that the state is responsible according to both international and Israeli law."

Muhammad went on to accuse the Israeli government’s illegal military occupation of the Palestinian territory and its violent and discriminatory policies for inciting settler violence against Palestinians.

“(Successive Israeli) governments supported the illegal establishment of settlements and ignored the unprecedented incitement of Jewish terrorist organizations,” he said. “These governments did not work to apply the law in these areas from which the terrorists set out and burned the Dawabsha family to death. Therefore, the state is primarily responsible for what happened.”

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with recent announcements of settlement expansion provoking condemnation from the international community.

Attacks by settlers are often carried out under the armed protection of Israeli forces, who rarely make efforts to protect Palestinians from such attacks, leading activists and rights groups to denounce what they have called a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.

According to rights group Yesh Din, over 85 percent of investigations into violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians are closed without indictments, and only 1.9 percent of complaints submitted by Palestinians against Israeli settler attacks result in a conviction.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), some 46 settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem have taken place so far this year.

OCHA reported a total of 221 such attacks in 2015, the year of the Duma arson.
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