An Israeli court found a Jewish settler guilty of racially motivated murder on Monday in a 2015 arson attack that killed a Palestinian couple and their baby in the occupied West Bank.
Amiram Ben-Uliel chose the Dawabsheh family home and another dwelling in Duma village on the assumption they were inhabited and, before firebombing them, spray-painted “Revenge” and “Long Live King Messiah” on their walls, Israeli prosecutors said.
The killing of 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents, Saad and Riham Dawabsheh, contributed to a surge of Israeli-Palestinian violence after U.S.-sponsored peace talks broke down in 2014.
Lod District Court’s triple-conviction of Ben-Uliel, 25, carries a potential life jail sentence. He was also found guilty of two counts of attempted murder and two of arson, but was acquitted of a charge of belonging to a terrorist organisation.
A second, underage defendant in the case entered a plea deal last year in which murder charges against him were reduced to conspiracy charges.
Ben-Uliel, wearing a large white skullcap and clutching a Jewish holy book, sat slumped in the dock as the verdict was read out. He has said Israeli investigators forced him to make a false confession to the Duma attack.
Ben-Uliel’s lawyer said he would appeal against Monday’s verdict at Israel’s Supreme Court.
The five-year-old case has underscored what Palestinians see as the sluggishness of Israeli crackdowns on Jewish militants, compared to the speedy and sometimes lethal response by state security forces to similar actions by Arabs.
Israeli officials said investigations into the Duma arson and other attacks by Jews opposed to any territorial compromises with the Palestinians were hampered by the suspects’ operating in small, tight-knit cells and eluding electronic surveillance.
In a rare statement, Israel’s domestic security service Shin Bet called the verdict “an important landmark in the struggle against Jewish terrorism”.
Ali Dawabsheh’s brother, Ahmed, survived the attack but suffered serious burns and has been nursed by his grandfather, Hussein.
“I spent a whole year in the hospital. I don’t want any other family to experience this trauma. Enough already,” Hussein Dawabsheh told reporters at the court.