By Kaamil Ahmed
A fire at the home of a Palestinian man who was the sole witness to a fatal arson attack by Israeli settlers last year has sparked an exchange of accusations about responsibility for the suspected attack.
Though the fire on Sunday was in the same village as last July's arson attack - which killed 18-month old Ahmad Dawabsheh and his parents - Israeli police claimed on the same day that the fire did not bear the signs of an attack by Israeli settlers.
Locals have however rejected the Israeli suggestion and the Palestinian Authority said the full responsibility lies with Israel for the attack in Duma, south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.
"This heinous crime is not an isolated incident and demonstrates that the Israeli government continues to give the illegal Jewish settlers a free hand to commit acts of violence and terror against a defenseless civilian Palestinian population," said Hanan Ashrawi in a statement from the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) Department of Culture and Information.
Anwar Dawabsheh, a Duma resident, told Anadolu Agency that locals did not believe that settlers were not responsible for the attack.
"Why did they spend seven hours inside the house? Dozens of investigators were inside from 2am to 9pm," he said. "We are sure. They [settlers] want to kill Ibrahim, the only witness. They will keep trying."
He added that the family had been asked to visit the police station near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, but were stuck at a checkpoint for four hours on Sunday.
Palestinian news agency Maan quoted local Duma leader Abd al-Salam Dawabsheh criticizing the PA for not helping the village hire night watchmen to guard against settler attacks.
"The government must help the villagers here and the village council told the government that they cannot work alone. Maybe I can do it [stay guard], but I have my job in the morning and I have to wake [up]. I can't stay up all night. We need support from the government," said Anwar Dawabsheh.
Robert Piper, the UN chief for aid to Palestine said in a statement Sunday: "I strongly condemn today's arson attack by suspected Jewish extremists on the home of Palestinian Ibrahim Dawabsheh... this violent act could easily have resulted in a more tragic outcome, as did the heinous terrorist attack last July on the home of Mr. Dawabsheh's relatives in the same village."
Source: Anadolu Agency