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Dawabsheh family calls on Israel to take responsibility for deadly arson attack

Three members of the Dawabsheh family were killed in July 2015 when Israeli settlers attacked and set fire to their home in West Bank.

Three members of the Dawabsheh family were killed in July 2015 when Israeli settlers attacked and set fire to their home in the occupied West Bank village of Duma. Eighteen month-old Ali Dawabsheh was burnt alive in the deadly arson attack; his parents died later of their terrible wounds. Ali's older brother, Ahmed, who was four at the time, survived, albeit with 80 per cent burns. The extended family members have now submitted a lawsuit calling on the Israeli government to accept some responsibility for the murderous attack.

Backed by Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the suit was lodged at the Central Court in Nazareth on Monday. Tens of millions of shekels have been demanded in compensation for the lives of Saad Dawabsheh, his wife Reham and baby Ali.

Al-Mezan held a press conference in Tel Aviv, in the presence of the family, to explain the details of the lawsuit and answer questions from the dozens of journalists in attendance. Arab and Jewish human rights activists, as well as lawyers, also attended the press conference.

Read: Israel refuses to compensate Palestinian family burned to death by settlers

Lawyer Mostafa Mahameed explained that Al-Mezan's team will prove that the Israeli government has been using double standards, before the crime, after it was committed and on until the arrest of one of the criminals who carried it out.

His colleague Mohammad Jabareen suggested that the crime would not have occurred if the security forces and the army had used the same measures against Jewish settlers that are imposed on Palestinians at checkpoints and during searches. He added that the legal team will prove that the settlement from where the criminals came is built in defiance of international law. They will also prove, he said, that this violation of international law by the Israeli government was why the criminal settlers were on Palestinian land in the first place and thus able to commit the crime. This, he concluded, makes the Israeli government culpable for the arson attack.

Speaking on behalf of the family, Nasr Dawabsheh said that while there is nothing that can compensate for the loss of the family members, they intend to pursue the government which supports and grants permits to the settlers who kill Palestinians. "We are still being attacked under the watchful eye of the government without it lifting a finger to stop the criminals," he explained. "Meanwhile, the Israeli government does not allow the Palestinian Authority to intervene, but protects the settlers and encourages the growth of settlements." A family statement issued to the media in advance of the press conference made it clear that it holds the Israeli government "fully responsible for the deadly terrorist attack."

Read: Insufficient evidence to prosecute settlers in Dawabsheh arson attack

Attorney Hassan Khatib from Al-Mezan pointed out that the lawsuit is in two parts, with one side presented at the judicial-security level, which aims to prosecute the Israeli government and the security forces, while the other is at the judicial-civil level, which seeks to pursue the criminals and seek compensation for the family. He stressed that the basis of the lawsuit is to pursue the security forces and the government as well to sue the Ministry of Public Security and the Israel Defence Forces. The lawyer added that he is confident that the case will be heard by the judges at the court. In any case, neither the legal team nor the family will give up, regardless of the time and effort that it may cost them.

"We demanded that the government should recognise that the attack was terrorism and hostile," Khatib told the audience. "However, the government responded by saying that it could not consider the Dawabsheh family as victims of a terrorist act. This forced us to file a lawsuit in order to put pressure on the government to take responsibility for the crime."

The case of the Dawabsheh family is a cause for all of the Palestinians, said Al-Mezan's Omar Khamaisi. "Our lawyers have been following the judicial proceedings from the beginning," he pointed out. "Unfortunately, the main defendant in the case was not charged with murder, but was only accused of planning the attack." Nevertheless, Al-Mezan has followed the case in the international courts, in Geneva and in every international and human rights forum. "We will continue to do so to the every end," he insisted.

Read: Dawabsheh living with emotional scars following arson attack

The lawsuit sets out the family's claim against the government and state security agencies clearly: "This is a harsh public indictment against successive Israeli governments which have neglected the security of the residents of the occupied [Palestinian] territories over [50] years. The governments have encouraged the establishment of illegal settlements and condoned the uncontrolled incitement and extreme violence of Jewish terrorist organisations that were established in these settlements against the Palestinians."

Among these organisations, the lawsuit contends, are the "terrorist murderers" who killed the Dawabsheh members. "They used the illegal settlements to plan, prepare and execute the attack; the settlements were their starting point and place of escape after the crime."

The case is ongoing.

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