JERUSALEM — Nine Jewish settlers suspected of extremist activities against Palestinians were arrested Sunday by Israeli forces after overnight police raids in several illegal outposts in the West Bank.
The arrests come as part of a crackdown by authorities on right-wing Jewish extremists following the death of a Palestinian toddler and his father after their home in the West Bank village of Duma was firebombed 10 days ago. The arsonists scrawled Hebrew graffiti reading “Revenge!” and a Star of David on a nearby wall.
Israeli media quickly labeled it a “price-tag attack” — a phrase used to describe violence and vandalism carried out by settlers and their supporters to extract “a price” for any actions against them, either by Israeli soldiers or Palestinian civilians.
Eighteen-month old Ali Dawabshe died at the scene of the fire; his father, Saad, died Saturday from burns suffered in the attack. The child’s mother, Riham, and his 4-year-old brother, Ahmed, are in critical condition in an Israeli hospital.
A Palestinian official said the pathologist’s report on the father’s death would be submitted as part of an official complaint on “settler terrorism” to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, news agency AFP reported.
The deaths have deepened tensions in the West Bank, with thousands of people attending Saad Dawabshe’s funeral on Saturday. Some Palestinians called for revenge. A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, called for an all-out war on the settlers, local media reported.
Sunday’s arrests of nine settlers were part of an investigation into recent incidents of Jewish extremism in Israel and the West Bank. Details of the search for those responsible specifically for the Duma attack are not being publicized.
Since the fatal firebombing, Israeli leaders have spoken out against such violence, terming it “Jewish terrorism” and approving measures such as “administrative detention,” which allows military authorities to order that suspects be held for long periods without formally charging them with a crime. This measure is regularly used against Palestinian terrorism suspects.
On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed sorrow over the death of Saad Dawabshe and said in a statement that he would not countenance terrorism “of any kind.”
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon was expected to approve administrative detentions for those arrested Sunday. He has already issued administrative detention orders for three Jewish extremists — Meir Ettinger, Eviatar Slonim and Mordechai Meyer — arrested last week.
Ettinger, 23, a most-wanted Jewish extremist, is the grandson of Brooklyn-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated for a Jewish state based on Torah law and the expulsion of Palestinians. Kahane was elected to the Israeli parliament, but his party was later banned for alleged racism. He was assassinated in New York in 1990 by an Egyptian American.
Slonim and Meyer also have been arrested in the past for their alleged involvement in several arson attacks, including one in June on the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, which marks the site where worshipers believe Jesus performed a miracle.