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Dawabsheh living with emotional scars following arson attack


Ahmed Dawabsheh, the sole survivor of the infamous Duma arson attack, is healing.

Accompanied by his grandfather, Hussein, and his uncle, Nassr, Ahmed attended the second Palestine Media Forum in Istanbul, Turkey last month.

His scars are apparent. The five-year-old was the sole survivor of an arson attack on his family’s home in Duma last summer when extremist settlers firebombed the property killing Ahmed’s parents and his 18-month-old brother Ali. Ahmed suffered 60 per cent burns in the attack.

While Ali died immediately, Ahmed’s parents Saad and Riham fought for their lives in hospital but succumbed to their wounds weeks later.

As Ahmed lay in the Intensive Care Unit in Tel HaShomer Hospital he was unaware of the fate of his family. Five months later, and after being transferred to the children’s ward and undergoing a total of 10 surgeries, including skin grafts, his grandfather informed him what had happened.

“As family and friends visited him in the hospital, Ahmed would start asking why his parents have not come to visit yet,” Hussein told MEMO. “We told him they were also hurt and were receiving treatment just like he was.”

His uncle, Nassr, said that Ahmed still does not entirely comprehend that his brother and parents have passed away, but he does know that “they are in heaven”.

Ahmed’s right hand and the right side of his face still bear scars from the burns he sustained during the attack, but it is the emotional effects which have left the worst scars. His fear of fire and burning, Hussein says, is so severe that he cried and felt pain during a laser-treatment session for his right hand. “The doctor said that it doesn’t hurt, and I tried it and it didn’t,” he added. “I asked Ahmed why it hurt, he said it was making fire and that it was going to burn him.”

Earlier this year, the home of Ibrahim Dawabsheh, Ahmed’s relative and a key witness to the attack that killed his family, caught fire in what local residents described as a deliberate attack by masked individuals who broke the bedroom window and set the house on fire. Ibrahim was unharmed but his wife suffered smoke inhalation. Israeli police said the cause of the fire was unknown, denying it was an arson attack.

A few months after the attack, Amiram Ben-Uliel, 21, was charged with the murder of the Dawabsheh family, and an unnamed minor was also charged as an accomplice in the attack.

Ben-Uliel is part of a movement known as the “hilltop youth”, a leaderless group of young Israeli settlers who set up unauthorised outposts on West Bank hilltops and are accused of carrying out so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinians and their properties. According to the UN, at least 120 attacks by Israeli settlers were documented in the occupied West Bank in 2015.

A report by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, showed that more than 92.6 per cent of complaints Palestinians lodge with Israeli police end with no charges being filed.

“If these were Palestinians who carried out such attack,” Attorney Omar Khamaisi, the director of the Nazareth-based Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, told MEMO, “suspects would quickly be rounded up and prosecuted under a military legal system and the homes of the attackers would have been demolished.”

Complaining about the slow process of indicting the Israeli assailants and the lack of action against hundreds of settlers who carry out attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, Khamaisi, who is also the Dawabsheh family’s attorney, said that, unlike Palestinians, Israeli settlers are protected by the country’s criminal laws and Israel would never demolish their homes as a result.

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