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West Bank Hate Crime Kills Palestinian Child

  • Robert Berger

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus, July 31, 2015.

An Israeli police officer inspects a house that was badly damaged from a suspected attack by Jewish extremists on two houses at Kafr Duma village near the West Bank city of Nablus, July 31, 2015.

Tensions are running high in the West Bank after a deadly hate crime targeting Palestinians.

Israeli authorities are blaming Jewish militants for an arson attack on a West Bank home that killed a Palestinian toddler. Hebrew graffiti was found on the walls.

Hundreds of people joined protests and there were sporadic clashes between Israelis and Palestinians as news of the 18-month-old child's death spread.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a rare call to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to say the attack overnight was "reprehensible and horrific ... an act of terrorism in every respect."

Netanyahu said "Israel takes a strong line against terrorism regardless of who the perpetrators are."

'Barbaric act'

The arson attack near the northern city of Nablus was "nothing short of a barbaric act of terrorism," said Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner, adding: "We will not allow terrorists to take the lives of Palestinians."

The Palestine Liberation Organization said it holds Netanyahu's government "fully responsible" for the attack. The dead child's four-year-old brother and parents were critically burned in the fire.

The PLO said in a statement that Friday's attack was "a direct consequence of decades of impunity given by the Israeli government to settler terrorism."

Abbas called on the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate the case.

Abbas, who controls parts of the West Bank, called it a “war crime.”

"The incident would be part of the Palestinians' case against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague," said Abbas.

Firebombs used

Police say the assailants threw firebombs into the house, setting off a blaze during the night. The toddler’s four-year-old brother and parents were critically wounded.

Relatives of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha, who died after his house was set on fire by Jewish settlers, mourn next to his body lying at a mosque during his funeral in the West Bank village of Duma, July 31, 2015.

Relatives of 18-month-old Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha, who died after his house was set on fire by Jewish settlers, mourn next to his body lying at a mosque during his funeral in the West Bank village of Duma, July 31, 2015.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, called for revenge attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The arson attack is part of a string of violent incidents linked to Jewish militants over the past two years, including the torching of Palestinian property and several mosques. Holy Land churches have also been vandalized.

Critics in Israel have accused the government of failing to act against the perpetrators.

State Department condemnation

The U.S. State Department strongly condemned the "vicious terrorist attack," urged Israel to find and prosecute the attackers, and called on both sides to avoid escalating tensions.

Crowds of protesters swelled as West Bank Palestinians left their mosques after Friday prayers. The Israeli army said troops shot and wounded one protester during clashes in the city of Hebron.

Several thousand people took to the streets in Douma at the funeral for young Ali Saad Dawabsha, whose body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag.

Some information from Reuters was used in this report.

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