LOD, Israel – An Israeli settler was sentenced on Monday to three life sentences plus 20 years for killing a Palestinian couple and their young son in a July 2015 bombing of their home.
The attack on the Davabshe family in the northern village of Duma in the West Bank has horrified Palestinians who have long condemned what they see as Israel’s relaxed attitude towards settler violence.
But the sinister nature of the killings shocked people on both sides of the divide and drew condemnation from Israeli leaders as well. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it an act of terrorism.
Judge Ruth Lorch said Mr Ben-Ulliel did not “act recklessly” in a “spontaneous way”, but rather that his actions “were meticulously planned and stemming from the racism and extremist ideology he supported”.
Mr Ben-Uliel attended the sentence by videoconference. As soon as Judge Lorch finished reading the verdict, Mr. Ben Ulliel’s wife, Orion, convicted the judges.
“Shame on you all!” She shouted.
“You are all murderers,” replied a supporter of the Davabsheh family.
In May, judges convicted Mr Ben-Uliel of murder, attempted murder, arson and “conspiracy to commit a crime motivated by racism”.
The attack killed Saad Davabsheh, 32, and Riham Davabsheh, 27, along with their 18-month-old son, Ali. Their eldest son, Ahmad, who was 5 years old at the time of the attack, suffered severe burns but survived.
In its verdict, the court found that Mr Ben-Uliel had planned the revenge attack for a shooting in which a settler had been killed about a month earlier. The court said he acknowledged crawling through an olive grove and bypassing several Palestinian homes to attack the heart of the village and create more fear.
Using bottles of grape juice to make fire bombs, Mr. Ben-Ulliel attacked a house without knowing it was empty, the court found. He then headed to a second home, where the Davabsheh family lay asleep.
Neighbors who heard screams rushed to the house and found Mr. Dawabsheh writhing on the ground outside and his wife on fire. Their younger son was already dead, and Ahmad could be heard screaming inside.
The verdict says Mr. Ben-Juliel spray-painted Revenge and Long Live the Messiah on the walls of the Hebrew family’s home.
Witnesses said they saw two masked men watching the family burn. A teenager, whose name has not been made public because he was a minor at the time of the attack, entered into a plea agreement last year, admitting that he conspired to carry out ethnically motivated arson in exchange for dropping murder charges against him by prosecutors.
Yael Atzmon, the leading public prosecutor, said Monday’s verdict sent an “important” message that people who carry out racially motivated attacks would be severely punished, regardless of their own identity. In a statement from the court, she said: “Terror is terror.”
However, human rights groups said that while Israel had taken greater action to prosecute Jewish perpetrators of violence against Palestinians in the most horrific cases, it had invested little resources in curbing the wider problem.
“The authorities have created an environment that allows settler violence to continue,” said Lior Amihai, executive director of Yesh Dinh, an Israeli human rights group. “We see new cases every week that never come to court.”
In December, Yesh Dean reported that of more than 1,200 investigations into violence by Jewish Israeli citizens against Palestinian civilians since 2005, only 8% had led to charges.
On Monday night, the son of Mr Netanyahu Yair, whose posts on social media often provoke controversy, retouched a post suggesting that the sentence was part of efforts to suppress all nationalist right-wingers and settlers. The publication included a link to Mr Ben-Uliel’s online fundraising campaign.
Yitzhak Bam, a lawyer representing Mr Ben-Uliel, said his client intended to appeal the sentence to the Supreme Court on Monday.
On the verge of tears, Hussein Davabshe, Richham’s father, said nothing would compensate for the loss of his daughter, son-in-law and grandson. And his surviving grandson, he said, is still suffering from burns.
“As for me, it didn’t bring me back my happiness,” he said. He didn’t return anything to me.