Two weeks after Israel announced it had made a major breakthrough in its investigation into last summer’s fire bombing that killed three Palestinians in the occupied West Bank village of Duma, the defense ministry claims that it does not have enough evidence to indict the suspects.
“We know who is responsible for this terrorist act, but do not have enough proof yet to try them,” defense minister Moshe Yaalon told Israeli army radio on Tuesday.
Earlier this month, as The Electronic Intifada reported, Israel arrested Hanoch Ganiram, 19, and Elisha Odess, a minor, as suspects in the attack. Israeli media have not reported their names due to a gag order that restricts them from revealing most details of the investigation.
On Tuesday, the Israeli high court rejected a petition lodged by Esawi Frej, a member of the Israeli parliament for the left-Zionist Meretz party, demanding that Yaalon and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein indict and prosecute the suspects in the 31 July fire bombing of the Dawabsha family home, which killed 18-month-old baby Ali and fatally injured his parents Reem and Saad.
Ali’s four-year-old brother, Ahmad, who was critically injured and remains hospitalized, is the sole survivor of the attack.
Charges “not on the horizon”
Frej’s petition was lodged about a month after Yaalon previously admitted that the army knew who had committed the attack but had not made any arrests “in order to protect the identity of their sources.”
The Israeli government told the court, according to The Jerusalem Post, that “filing indictments was still in doubt and not on the horizon in the near future.”
Frej called the lack of indictments for the triple murder “illegal, unreasonable, extremely disproportionate and severely [discriminatory].”
In rejecting Frej’s petition, the Israeli judges gave the government more time to investigate the crime.
Despite international condemnations, no arrests were even made until four months after the attack.
The slow pace of the investigation into slayings where the suspects are Jews contrasts with the swift revenge Israel metes out to Palestinians and their relatives.
Israel also routinely demolishes the homes of relatives of Palestinians merely accused of violent acts, a form of collective punishment that is illegal under international law.
Dozens more Palestinians, including neighbors who just happened to live near the targeted families, have been made homeless or killed in revenge demolitions that are sanctioned by Israel’s high court.
Israeli media have reported on other arrests related to the Dawabsha killings. One person, a West Bank settler described as an alleged “accessory,” was last week released to house arrest.
Israel’s Shin Bet secret police has admitted to using abusive techniques amounting to torture in an apparent attempt to extract a confession.
On 14 December, Raz Nizri, the deputy attorney general, publicly admitted that Shin Bet was using “exceptional measures” during its interrogations.
Those measures had been approved by the attorney general, Nizri told a parliamentary committee.
This was the first detail of the investigation officially released to Israeli media.
While torture is routinely used against Palestinian detainees, B’Tselem called it a “rarity in interrogating Jewish suspects.”
The primary suspects have also been denied access to a lawyer.
One of the lawyers they have retained, Itamar Ben Gvir, is a high profile activist and the attorney of Baruch Marzel, a US-born settler with a long history of violence against Palestinians.