Israeli defense chief walks back comments on knowing identity of Duma attackers

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon walked back comments he reportedly made saying that Israeli military authorities know who is responsible for the arson attack that killed a baby and his parents.

Security forces have a “general idea” of who perpetrated the attack on a home in the West Bank village of Duma, he told reporters hours after the remarks attributed to him were published in the Israeli daily Haaretz.

“We are unfortunately convinced that the attack in Duma was carried out by Jews,” he told reporters Thursday night, according to the Times of Israel.

He added: “It is one of the most extremist groups, whose goal was to set fire to the area and harm many lives; much more than the ‘price tag’ attacks we have come across.”

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Haaretz reported earlier in the day that Yaalon told a closed meeting with some 20 young Likud party activists on Wednesday that Israeli military authorities know who is responsible for the attack, but they are not being indicted in order to protect the military’s intelligence sources.

Reham Dawabsheh, 27, died Sunday after suffering burns to some 90 percent of her body in the July 31 attack in the West Bank village of Duma. Her 18-month-old son, Ali, was killed in the attack and her husband, Saad, died more than a week later of his injuries. Another son, Ahmed, 4, was seriously burned but reportedly is recovering. He has not been told about the loss of his family.

Three known Jewish extremists were arrested and remain held in administrative detention in the wake of the attack, but no one has been charged in the incident.

A senior Israeli army officer said Tuesday in a briefing with reporters that there is no doubt that Jews firebombed the home.

“We know unequivocally that this is an act of Jewish terror,” the officer said. “All the rumor and speculation being spread on this issue lack any basis in reality.”

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