Israeli security forces were on highest alert going into the weekend after an 18-month-old Palestinian child was killed in what appeared to be an arson attack carried out by Jewish extremists in Samaria.
A fire broke out in two adjacent homes in the Palestinian town of Duma south of Nablus (biblical Shechem) during the predawn hours on Friday. Only one home was occupied at the time, and the family inside scrambled to escape. But the mother was reportedly unable to reach her youngest child as the flames spread. Both parents and a four-year-old child were treated for severe smoke inhalation.
Hebrew graffiti reading “Long live King Messiah” and “Revenge” was found nearby, raising suspicions that this was yet another “price tag” attack by Jewish extremists angered over a political process that would see their ancestral homeland surrendered for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Other such attacks have targeted Christian institutions, which are seen as part of an effort to spiritually destroy the Jewish people.
To date, only a handful of price tag attacks have resulted in fatalities, or even injury, and police expected Palestinian extremists to use Friday’s tragedy as an excuse for further violence.
Indeed, Hamas had already declared a “day of rage” at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount over increased Jewish visits to the holy site, and the arson attack would only add to the tension.
Thousands of police were deployed to Jerusalem and around the country to prevent additional bloodshed, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed those responsible for the death of the Palestinian child would be duly punished.
“I am shocked by this terrible criminal act,” said Netanyahu. “This is a terror attack. Israel deals harshly with terrorism, no matter who the perpetrators are.”
Somewhat predictably, the Palestinian Authority exaggerated the situation as though such deadly acts of arson were a regular occurrence, and threatened to drag Israel before the International Criminal Court.
“This is a war crime and a crime against humanity,” declared Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. “We will take this to the International Criminal Court and no one will stop us from doing so. We demand that the world act. What does the United States think of these crimes?”
At the same time, Abbas and his regime claim Palestinian violence against Jews is an understandable, if not justifiable, response to the “Israeli occupation.”