On Thursday, it was announced that a number of Jews were arrested by Israeli Police and Shin Bet security forces on suspicion of involvement in the arson that killed three members of the Dawabsha family in the Arab village of Duma in July. Ali Dawabsha, an 18-month old boy, died in the attack, and his parents, Saad and Riham, died from their injuries later.
Details of the investigation and arrest, including the names of the suspects, are being kept secret and under a court ordered gag. The suspects have not been allowed to consult with their lawyers or speak with their families, despite no charges being submitted against them.
Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) spoke about the investigation on Friday on IDF Army Radio, confirming that authorities do not have enough evidence to put the youths on trial.
“There are not many investigations that merit such high prioritization like the investigation of the murders that happened in the village of Duma, and still the general security services and police have advanced in this investigation,” Erdan said. “We are doing everything so that we will also have evidence to allow a trial and a submission of indictments.”
Hay Heber, an attorney with the right wing legal aid group Honenu who represents some of the arrested suspects, told The Times of Israel that police and had no real evidence and were using aggressive interrogations to gather information from the suspects.
“There’s some panic by the investigators that they don’t have anything, so all they can do is to impose difficulties on this group of people in the hope that one of them will ‘break’ and admit to something that he didn’t do.”
The Israeli authorities have been under pressure to bring those responsible to justice. Thursday’s partial lift on the gag-order came one day after the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, criticized Israel for the “slow progress” in investigating the arson.
In September, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud) announced that the identities of the arsonists was known, but that statement was later retracted. There was conjecture based on testimony of the Arabs in the village and conflicting physical evidence that the arson was part of a feud between two families. The case has been hindered by a lack of evidence.