Duma, West Bank–Eman and Mamoun Dawabsheh’s five children might have burned to death in the early morning hours of July 31, when Israeli settlers snuck into Duma, the West Bank village where they live, and tossed firebombs into their home. Fire entirely decimated the room where the boys usually sleep. The heat of the blaze melted the television that 17-year-old Moatasem sometimes falls asleep watching. Fortunately, the family was in Nablus.
“We had been planning to come home [the night of the fire] but my husband had another [construction] job, so he said, ‘Let’s stay in Nablus another week,’” Eman said.
Mamoun’s brother called them at 2 a.m., saying their house was on fire. Eman and Mamoun rushed back to their village, thinking the fire was likely caused by faulty wiring and thanking God that no people were in the house. “Material things are not precious like human beings,” Eman said. While en route, however, she learned that the house of her neighbors and distant cousins, Sa’ad and Riham Dawabsheh, was also on fire. “I said [to myself], ‘Please God, don’t let them be home now.’ ”
Only upon seeing the crowds of people, cars, and fire engines did Eman learn that Sa’ad and Riham had, indeed, been home. They and their 4-year-old son Ahmed had been pulled from the blaze with severe burn injuries. Eighteen-month-old baby Ali was still trapped inside. Soon after, Ali’s body was located in the charred house.
Though Eman didn’t see the baby’s corpse, she was told that it was burned and blackened beyond recognition. Riham, Sa’ad and Ahmed were rushed to hospitals in Israel, where Riham and Ahmed remain in critical condition. Ali was buried in the village cemetery later that day. Sa’ad died from his wounds early morning Saturday, August 8. The toddler’s death made headlines around the world, sparking both international outrage and the protest of thousands, both inside Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The boy, the child, Ali—his mother called him Aloush,” Eman said, describing the toddler as always smiling. “I’d open my window, see her hanging clothes and he would go jumping around her. She’d call, ‘Aloush! Please stop!’ She was afraid he might fall down. ‘Be careful, be careful!’ I hope she will be alright…” Eman’s voice cracked, and tears came. Riham was more than a neighbor; the two women were close friends.
The killing of Ali Dawabsheh was not the first act of murderous violence in Israel and the occupied territories in the past week, nor was it the last. The settlers’ attack in Duma came hours after a violent stabbing at Jerusalem’s Gay Pride parade. Yishai Schlissel, an Ultra-Orthodox Israeli man, injured six marchers, ultimately killing 16-year-old Shira Banki. (Schlissel had been recently released from prison, where he had served a 10-year sentence for having attacked the 2005 Pride parade in the same fashion.)