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Israel arrests alleged Jewish extremists over deadly arson

By AFP - Dec 03,2015 - Last updated at Dec 03,2015

LOD, Israel — Israel said Thursday it has arrested a number of alleged Jewish extremists over the firebombing of a Palestinian home that killed a toddler and his parents, in an attack that drew international condemnation.

Israel faces mounting pressure to bring to justice the perpetrators of the July attack in the occupied West Bank, with a UN envoy expressing concern over the "slow progress" in the probe.

"We have confirmed that a number of suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident that took place in Duma," said spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld.

The Shin Bet domestic security agency said arrests had been made in recent days of young men "suspected of belonging to a Jewish terror organisation and carrying out terror attacks".

It said the detainees were being questioned over the July 31 firebombing in the village of Duma, located near the Jordan Valley and close to wildcat Jewish settlements.

Further information on the investigation, including the identities of those held, remained under a gag order.

A legal representative of one suspect held over the arson appeared in court in the Israeli city of Lod on Thursday to request access to speak with his client, but was refused, he said.

Itamar Ben-Gvir said his client was being held over the Duma attack, but had no other details on the case and criticised the Israeli authorities for denying him access.

Eighteen-month-old Ali Saad Dawabsheh and his parents were killed in the firebombing. The couple's four-year-old son was the sole survivor from the immediate family.

A Star of David and the words "revenge" and "long live the Messiah" were spray-painted on a wall near the family's small house.

The arson attack drew renewed attention to Jewish extremism and accusations Israel had not done enough to address the problem.

Young Jewish men from wildcat settlement outposts in the West Bank and known as the "hilltop youth" have been blamed for violence and vandalism targeting Palestinians, Christian holy sites and even Israeli military property.


'Slow progress' 


The attack led to widespread condemnation globally.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labelled it "terrorism".

But criticism intensified as months passed without anyone being charged.

Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said this week that the lack of charges was troubling.

"Four months have passed since the arson attack against the Dawabsheh family," he said.

"I am concerned by the slow progress and call on the Israeli authorities to move swiftly in bringing the perpetrators of this terrible crime to justice."

In the face of such criticism, authorities had earlier suggested that some of the suspects may be currently held under Israel's controversial administrative detention policy, under which they can be held without trial for six-month renewable periods.

Rights groups and Palestinian leaders however have called for those behind the arson to be brought to trial.

Palestinians have often highlighted the lack of progress in the case as among the causes of a wave of violence that began on October 1.

Since the start of October, 105 people have been killed on the Palestinian side, including an Arab Israeli, while 17 Israelis, an American and an Eritrean have died.

Two more attacks occurred on Thursday.

In the first, an Israeli soldier and a bystander were wounded in a West Bank gun attack, the army said, before the assailant, reportedly a member of the Palestinian security forces, was shot dead.

Later, a 21-year-old Palestinian allegedly stabbed and wounded an Israeli soldier near Jerusalem's Old City before being shot dead, Israeli forces said.


The officer was wounded in the hand by the knife and was also hit by a stray bullet in the ankle when Israeli forces responded.

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