The slumbering Dawabsheh family never stood a chance when a pair of arsonists crept into their home in a village in the West Bank in the early hours of Friday. A smashed window, a flaming molotov cocktail, a whoosh of fire and piercing screams followed. Within minutes, the parents had crawled from the house with life-threatening third degree burns covering most of their bodies. Inside, four-year-old Ahmad was shrieking in fear and pain; his infant brother, Ali, just 18 months old, was dead or dying, his body burned beyond recognition.
Within hours, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, condemned the attack – quickly attributed to extremist Israeli settlers – as an “act of terrorism”, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, denounced it as a “war crime”, and the European Union and United Nations had demanded swift action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Thousands of Palestinians attended Ali’s funeral and other protests in the West Bank, their anger fuelled by a litany of settler violence and intimidation. The family’s home in Duma, near the Palestinian city of Nablus, was left blackened with soot and coated in ash, although graffiti left by the arsonists was still visible: “revenge”, “price tag” and “long live the Messiah” were scrawled in Hebrew letters.