An 18-month-old Palestinian baby died in an arson attack by suspected Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank early Friday. Three others were seriously wounded when the house in Duma, located south of the city of Nablus, was set on fire, Haaretz reported.
The attackers, who are yet to be identified, also spray-painted graffiti reading “revenge” and “long live the messiah” on the walls of houses in the village. According to witnesses, interviewed by Al Jazeera, at least four settlers were seen fleeing the scene after the attack.
The toddler has been identified as Ali Saad Dawabsheh, Haaretz reported.
“This attack against civilians is nothing short of a barbaric act of terrorism. A comprehensive investigation is underway in order to find the terrorists and bring them to justice,” Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli military, reportedly said. “The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] strongly condemns this deplorable attack and has heightened its efforts in the field to locate those responsible.”
PM: This is an act of terrorism in every respect. The State of Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of the perpetrators.
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 31, 2015
Authorities suspect that the incident is a “price tag” attack, which is carried out by extremist settlers against Palestinian residents of the West Bank in retaliation to Israeli government’s actions against illegal settlements. The attack comes just days after the Israeli government began the demolition of two structures in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, located near the city of Ramallah, after they were declared illegal.
“This is a suspected attack with nationalist motives,” Luba Samri, an Israeli police spokeswoman, reportedly said.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, denounced the attack and said that the Israeli government was fully responsible for the crime, Al Jazeera reported. He also accused the international community of failing to act on crimes committed by the settlers against Palestinians.
Estimates by the United Nations show that the annual rate of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians has nearly quadrupled in eight years. Moreover, according to a recent report by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, more than 85 percent of all Palestinian complaints against Jewish settlers are closed by Israeli authorities because of lack of sufficient evidence, resulting in a "pervasive culture of impunity" among the extremists in the West Bank.