Lod District Court on Monday found a Jewish extremist guilty of three counts of murder in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian baby and both his parents.
The court ruled that settler Amiram Ben-Uliel hurled firebombs into a West Bank home in July 2015, killing 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh. His mother, Riham, and father, Saad, later died of their wounds. Ali's 4-year-old brother Ahmad was the sole survivor and was badly burned in the attack.
The case sent shock waves through Israel and triggered months of Israeli-Palestinian violence. It came at a time when Israel was dealing with a wave of vigilante-style attacks by suspected Jewish extremists.
In addition to three counts of murder, Ben-Uliel was convicted of two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson.
The court acquitted him on charges of membership in a terror organization due to lack of evidence, but Judge Ruth Lorch in the verdict that it could be denied that the crime stemmed from "a racist act of revenge."
Hussein Dawabshe, the father of Riham, responded to the decision saying that it is important for justice to be done so no one else’s lives will be ruined and destroyed like the three murdered Dawabshes.
"This trial will not bring back my family, but I want no one to ever go through such trauma again," Hussein said.
The attack was condemned across the Israeli political spectrum, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledging "zero tolerance" in the fight to bring the assailants to justice.
Investigators placed several suspects under administrative detention, a measure typically reserved for alleged Palestinian militants that allows authorities to hold suspects for months without charge.
As the judges walked into the court, 25-year-old Ben-Uliel sat slouched in the dock, a large white skullcap on his head and blue mask on his face, reading what looked to be a biblical text.
The Shin Bet domestic security service said Ben-Uliel had confessed to planning and carrying out the attack, and two others were accessories.
It said he claimed the arson was in retaliation for the killing of an Israeli by Palestinians a month earlier.
Ben-Uliel's lawyers said they were not surprised by the verdict and that their client's confession was allegedly made under torture. The sentencing hearing was set for June 9.
Critics of the investigation noted that lesser non-deadly attacks such as firebombings that damaged mosques and churches had gone unpunished for years.
And as the investigation into the Duma attack dragged on, Palestinians complained of a double-standard, where suspected Palestinian militants are quickly rounded up and prosecuted under a military legal system that gives them few rights while Jewish Israelis are protected by the country's criminal laws.
First published: 10:19 , 05.18.20