Life is Belief & Struggle - Ahmed Shawqi

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Once Upon An Arson

I haven’t written about the Duma arson in detail. I have at least 3 posts sitting in the draft folder on the Duma Arson, but facts have remained so elusive, and the situation far to fluid to stake out any position, and say with any degree of certainty, this is truth.

But an indictment has come down from the Israeli courts.  Ynet News 
Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, from Jerusalem, and a 17-year-old youth from the Samaria region were indicted on Sunday morning for murder and involvement in the murder of the three members of the Dawabsheh family at the Palestinian village of Duma in late July.  Ben-Uliel was charged with three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, two counts of arson, and one count of conspiring to commit a nationalistically-motivated crime.
The 17-year-old, whose name cannot be reported because he is a minor, was charged with one count of conspiring to commit a nationalistically-motivated crime. He is also suspected of involvement in the arson at Dormition Abbey.

Details are as follows:
 Ben-Uliel and the minor, who were living on and off in outposts near Duma at the time, conspired during the month of July 2015 to avenge the murder of Malachi Rosenfeld by Palestinian terrorists. The two met several times at the outposts of Geulat Zion - where the Ben-Uliel resided at the time - and Yishuv HaDa'at, to plan their attack, the indictment says.

They also conducted reconnaissance of the villages of Duma and Majdal Bani Fadil and decided to first target Duma and if they are able, commit an attack in Majdal Bani Fadil as well. According to the indictment, Ben-Uliel prepared two bottles filled with flammable liquid, rags, a lighter, a box of matches, gloves, and a can of black spray paint to be used in the attack. The two set to meet at a cave in Yishuv HaDa'at before leaving for Duma on the night of the attack, July 30, 2015, but for an unknown reason failed to meet each other there. After waiting for the minor suspect for an hour at the cave, Ben-Uliel, dressed in dark clothes and carrying the items prepared for the attack in a bag, set out in the direction of Duma.

When arriving in Duma at around 11pm, Ben-Uliel used one of the two dark shirts he was wearing to cover his face, and put on his gloves. According to the indictment, he chose a house in the heart of the village, rather than one on the outskirts, to further bolster the effect of fear and terror among the residents. He sought out a house with signs of being inhabited to ensure he does not set fire to an abandoned home.

Ben-Uliel chose to target two homes belonging to the Dawabsheh family - one housing Saed, Reham, Ahmad and Ali, and the other owned by Mamoun Dawabsheh, with the latter house being empty.

He set Mamoun's empty house on fire with one of the Molotov cocktails, after spraying the word "Revenge" and drawing a Star of David on the wall of the house. He also sprayed the words "Long Live the King Messiah" and drew a crown on the wall surrounding the homes. Mamoun's house burned down as result of the arson.

The facts of the case presented in the indictment allege there was a single perpetrator. He is Amiram Ben-Uliel, a hill top youth who he grew up in Gush Etzion area and was most recently a resident of Jerusalem.  He planned this attack for retaliation for the murder of Malachi Rosenfeld in June 2015 with a teenaged co-conspirator who failed to show up at the arranged time to help Ben-Uliel  carry out the attack. 

Ynet News  also carries a report with an interview with Ben-Uliel’s wife which is worth a read in its entirety, and one of the things we learn is that he is a father of an infant. He does not have a license and he cannot drive. At the time of the attack, Ben-Uliel’s wife maintains he was with her, and they woke up around 4:30am in order to pick up their friends and drive them to another outpost.

Ben-Uliel describes her husband’s arrest by the Shabak (Israeli internal security agency).
 "My husband has no license and he doesn't drive. Anyway, that morning I gave him a lift to the yeshiva and when we were nearby he got out of the car and started to walk. Two people approached him and suddenly one of them punched him in the stomach. They grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground. At the same time more people started to run over to them from every direction and everyone jumped on him and beat him," she recounts. "I was stunned. I got out of the car and started shouting, 'What are you doing to him, who are you?' I thought it was a terror attack, but very quickly some of them put on police hats with visors and I realized that it wasn't."

In the case against Ben-Uliel, its highly likely that the his legal team will argue that the Shabak elicited his confession under torture and move to have it struck from evidence against Ben Uliel.  The Shabak arrested dozens of ‘Hilltop Youth’, and the allegations of torture are now becoming legion. Certainly, according to the Oriyan Ben-Uliel,  the arrest was a violent takedown wherein the suspect apparently offered no resistance to arrest. I would not be surprised if Ben-Uliel’s legal team will subpoena the interrogation videos of Ben-Uliel rather than just the confession videos.

What is striking is the fact that the Duma Arson was allegedly only committed by one individual, and yet, if we go back to the original news reports, Palestinian witnesses claim anywhere from two to four individuals were involved.
1. Two witnesses said they saw two masked men outside the house watching as the family burned. “The hardest thing for me, was that there were two burning people on the ground, and two people were just standing over them,” said a neighbor, Ibrahim Dawabsheh, who like many in this Palestinian village shared a common last name. “They didn’t even care that the child was still crying inside.” NY Times.

2. According to witnesses, at roughly 4 A.M. Friday morning, two masked men arrived at two homes in the village of Douma, not far from the settlement of Migdalim.
Local resident Mesalem Daoubasah, 23, said he saw four settlers fleeing the scene, with several local residents following in pursuit. According to Daoubasah, the settlers fled toward the settlement of Ma'aleh Ephraim. Daoubasah added that other witnesses saw the settlers smash the windows of the house before throwing firebombs inside.  Ha’aretz

3. According to witnesses, two men wearing black balaclavas firebombed the house just after 2am. Neighbour Ibrahim Dawabsheh, 23, a Palestinian construction worker in the nearby Jewish settlement Shilo, was talking to his fiancee on the phone on an upstairs balcony when he heard his neighbours’ screams. “I heard Saad [the husband] shouting: ‘Help, they have slaughtered me.’ I dropped the phone and rushed to their house,” he told the Guardian.
He found two men standing over the burning bodies of Reham and Saad Dawabsheh. “There were two masked men, one of them was standing by Reham looking at her, and the second was standing next to Saad, checking if they were alive or not.”
Ibrahim could hear Ahmad crying inside the house, but ran back to his own home when the intruders spotted him, fearing for the safety of his family. “The settlers tried to follow me back to my house, but they left after my brother came.”The Guardian

According to these reports, there are between 2 to 4 attackers, 2 of which stood over the bodies of Dawabsheh parents to watch them burn.  I am not the only one to question the number of perpetrators.
Hussein Dawabsheh, the grandfather of Ahmad and Ali, said the indictment against the two suspects was not enough. "It's true that they got a lead, but this terror attack was committed by other people as well. It can't be that only two people committed this attack, two people can't do something this big. You need a group, not one or two people," he said. "I'm sure there are people who are involved in this attack and they're still free." Ynet News 
Then there is the time inconsistency.  According to the indictment Ben-Uliel arrived in the village at approximately 11pm. Are we ready to believe it took him from 11pm to around 2am to reach the Dawabsheh home and start the fire. Of course, if Mesalem Daoubashah is to be believed, it took Ben-Uliel even longer – from 11pm to 4am to reach the house in the centre of the village.

One of the things which disturbed me was how anyone was able to infiltrate the centre of the village so silently.  Strictly anecdotal, and I only have limited knowledge of traveling in the dispute territories – and only in Area C. So my first hand knowledge is not extensive. What I have observed traveling past Arab villages was the preponderance of dogs, and I do mean a lot of dogs. 

I get it. Most of these villages are located in areas where any kind of law enforcement, whether it be the IDF or the Palestinian Authority, is few and far between. So dogs are a good investment as in first responder kind of defense.  The Dawabsheh family home was located in the centre of a village of 2,000 souls; so how was Ben-Uliel able to infiltrate the centre of the village and no dogs barked outrageously? Or are we to believe Duma is dog-free settlement?

And then there is the handwriting.  For something spray painted in the dark of night it was done by a  remarkably straight and steady hand.  Stylistically, it is odd and suggests someone who is not a native Hebrew writer/speaker – especially, the formation of cursive letters. And why did the writer the letter hey at the end in a non-cursive form of alef-bet? And Amiran Ben-Uliel is Sabra; Israeli born and educated in Hebrew.

If the entirety of the evidence against Ben-Uliel is his confession, a confession allegedly obtained by torture, it will be very hard to obtain a conviction. In other news, an Israeli was released from ‘administrative detention’.
Mordechai Mayer, a youth who has been in administrative detention without evidence or trial for five months over alleged connection to "price tag" vandalism, had his administrative order thrown out after it was found that he was jailed due to false information passed by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud), Honenu said. Arutz Sheva

Sure sounds like the Shabak has some definite 'truth' issues.

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