An Israeli court sentenced a Jewish settler to life in prison plus 20 years on Monday for murdering a Palestinian family in a 2015 firebomb attack on their home in the occupied West Bank.
The district court determined that Amiram Ben-Uliel led a racially–motivated attack on the Dawabsheh home after finding the terms “Revenge” and “Long Live the Messiah,” spray-painted on the family home walls alongside a depiction of the Star of David. The attack killed Saad Dawabsheh, 32, and Riham Dawabsheh, 27, along with their 18-month-old son, Ali. Then four–year–old Ahmed Dawabsheh was the only family member to survive the attack with severe burns.
Judge Ruth Lorch stated that Ben-Uliel did not commit “a reckless act” in “a spontaneous manner,” but acted in a “meticulously planned” manner “stemm[ing] from racism and an extremist ideology.”
Ben–Uliel stated that he intends to appeal his conviction. His lawyer Itzak Bam told Reuters that Ben–Uliel maintains his innocence and claims his confession was extracted through torture. However, the court’s ruling shows the Ben–Uliel confessed to the attack and offered further details that only a perpetrator could know. The court acquitted him of charges of belonging to a terrorist organization.
A panel of judges further ordered Ben–Uliel to pay USD $288,893 in damages to the Dawabsheh family members within 90 days.
As part of a plea bargain, the court convicted a second underage defendant of assisting in the attack. That sentence is pending.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other political officials have called this a terrorist attack led by Jewish extremists. Israeli officials say that suspects continue to thwart their investigation efforts into Jewish militant and extremist attacks on Palestinians because suspects elude electronic surveillance by operating within tight circles.
Palestinians continue to express outrage over the Dawabsheh murder and contend that the attack is one of many targeted attacks against Palestinians in the illegally occupied West Bank.