Tear gas thrown into Palestinian home, Jewish militants suspected

By Jeffrey Heller
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Palestinian boy rides his bicycle past Dawabsheh family house near the West Bank city of Nablus

A Palestinian boy rides his bicycle past the Dawabsheh family house near the West Bank city of Nablus, December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

By Jeffrey Heller

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Tear gas grenades were thrown into a Palestinian home on Tuesday in what Israeli police believe was an attack by Jewish militants angered by the detention of comrades suspected of killing a Palestinian toddler and his parents in July.

No one was hurt in the incident overnight in the village of Beitillu in the occupied West Bank, a police spokeswoman said.

It coincided with growing Israeli ultranationalist anger over what one cabinet minister called uncommon interrogation methods used against suspects in the fatal arson attack on a house in Duma village five months ago.

Suspected Jewish attackers torched the Dawabsheh family's home in the West Bank on July 31, killing 18-month-old Ali. His father Saad and mother Riham died several weeks later from injuries they sustained.

Several suspected Jewish ultranationalists have been arrested in that case, with a court gag order on their exact numbers and identities in place.

The words "Revenge" and "Hello from the detainees of Zion" were daubed on the wall of a home next to the one attacked on Tuesday, witnesses said, an apparent reference to the suspects in the Duma arson case.

"Inside the house, where settlers hurled the two gas bombs, my brother, his wife and nine-month-old baby were sleeping," Abed Hussein al-Najar, who lives in Beitillu, told Reuters by telephone. "Thank God, my brother woke up to the powerful smell of gas and cried for help. Neighbors rushed in and helped them get out."

Court documents released on Monday showed that a lawyer for one of the suspects alleged that violent interrogation methods were being used against his client.

An official transcript of the hearing noted that security officials had provided details of the questioning, but further information was redacted.

Hundreds of right-wing protesters demonstrated in Jerusalem on Saturday in support of the detainees.

A court official said security had been stepped up outside the home of a judge presiding over the case, and postings on social media accused him of failing to stop the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security service, mistreating the suspects.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the agency, saying its actions were lawful. "Regrettably, from time to time there is terrorist activity by Jews and the Shin Bet deals with that," Netanyahu told reporters in Jerusalem.

A lawyer for one of the suspects said his client was sexually harassed and prevented sleep. "At one point they hanged him from his feet with his head down. They use chairs, tables, something called a Sodom Bed where he is tied up and stretched," Itamar Ben Gvir told Reuters by telephone.

Asked on Army Radio on Tuesday whether the detainees were being tortured by the Shin Bet, Security Cabinet member Naftali Bennett said "exceptional actions" were being taken in response to an exceptional situation, but under tight legal scrutiny.

Referring to Tuesday's tear gas attack, Bennett, head of the far-right Jewish Home party, said: "Terrorism is terrorism. They tried here to murder another family in its sleep."

(Additional reporting by Maayan Lubell and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Dominic Evans)