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Thousands of Israelis Protest Palestinian Toddler's Firebomb Death


Left-wing protesters hold signs during a protest condemning Friday's arson attack in the West Bank, at Rabin square in Tel Aviv August 1, 2015.
Left-wing protesters hold signs during a protest condemning Friday's arson attack in the West Bank, at Rabin square in Tel Aviv August 1, 2015.

Thousands of Israelis protested across the country Saturday against extremist violence that left a Palestinian toddler burned alive and six gay rights marchers stabbed.

"Flames of hatred have spread through our country," President Reuven Rivlin told a crowd of marchers in Jerusalem. "Flames of violence, of hatred, of false and distorted beliefs."

The president said violence carried out in the name of the Torah -- the book of Jewish law -- is the antithesis of Judaism.

Suspected Jewish extremists firebombed the home of a Palestinian family in the West Bank town of Duma Friday. An 18 month-old boy was burned to death in his bed and his parents and brother seriously hurt.

A Jewish Star of David and the words "revenge" and "long live the Messiah" were spray painted on a wall.

'Reprehensible and horrific'

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

He vowed that those behind the attack will be punished.

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."

But Palestinian Liberation Organization Chief Saeb Erekat puts the blame on the Israeli government. He accuses it of inciting violence against Palestinians through building Jewish settlements and what he calls a "culture of hate."

Erekat repeated his appeal for international protection for Palestinians. Israel calls the settlements an essential part of its security.

String of violent incidents

The firebombing in Duma came just a day after a right-wing Orthodox Jew stabbed six people marching in a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. A teenage girl is still in the hospital.

The alleged attacker was freed from prison just three weeks earlier for another knife attack on a gay rights march in 2005. Israeli leaders and Orthodox rabbis condemned Thursday's violence.

Also Saturday, hundreds of Palestinians turned out for the funeral of an 18-year-old protester shot by Israeli troops for throwing a firebomb at them near Ramallah.

US condemns attack

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

Right-wing Israeli extremists have for years attacked Palestinians, Arab Israelis and even Israeli military bases in opposition to what they see as the government's favorable policies toward the Palestinians.