Nablus, occupied West Bank – He could have been a doctor, an accountant or a teacher. He might have grown to hate school and love poetry, or maybe he was to follow his father’s footsteps and work in construction. But we’ll never know, because little Ali was killed too soon.
Shortly after Friday midnight, a firebomb was thrown into the family’s bedroom in a suspected settler arson attack, setting the house alight. The raging fire claimed 18-month-old Ali’s life and left both his parents, Saad and Reham Dawabsheh, as well as his four-year-old brother, Ahmad, in critical condition.
Tens of locals were gathered outside the family house in Duma, a village of around 3,000 Palestinians south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The walls were still releasing heat when we got there and shattered glass was all over the wet floor.
Pictures of Ali, his burnt clothes and his unfinished milk bottle were laid on the burnt bedroom floor. The Dawabsheh’s neighbours were in awe, medical workers were trying to keep their composure whenever asked to describe the scene upon their arrival.
“He was a lump of coal,” Yusef Dariyeh, a medic with the Palestine Red Cross Society (PRCS) said describing what was left of Ali.
Nearby, the house of Maamaun Dawabsheh was partially burnt in the attack. Luckily, the family was not home at the time. Hebrew graffiti was sprayed on the walls: “revenge” and “long live the Messiah.”
We spoke to Ibrahim Dawabsheh, 23, who was the first to hear Saad’s call for help.
“I was on my house terrace around 2:30am when I heard Saad’s voice screaming: “help me, they’re killing me’,” he recalled.
Ibrahim says he ran down and stood by the wall separating his house from Saad’s startled by what he saw. “Saad and his wife were on the ground, meters apart. They were in flames and two masked men were looking down at them,” he told Al Jazeera.
When the two men started walking away, they noticed him and ran towards him, he says. “I ran back home shouting for my brother and father to wake up, to let them know others were coming,” he said.
When Ibrahim came back, they were gone. Locals moved Saad and his wife away from the house; they saved Ahmad who was standing in the living room in the raging fire, yelling for his mother.
“They told me there was another baby inside, but the flames were so big,” Ibrahim said. There was a huge blast afterwards and it was too late to save Ali.
Parents fighting for their lives
The third of the Palestinian flag was enough to wrap Ali’s small body. Hundreds showed up to his funeral, but not his parents.
They are still in Israeli hospitals, fighting for their lives.
Saad is admitted to Soroka medical centre, suffering of severe second-degree burns to over 80 percent of his body. The 32-year-old is on life support, Israeli hospital officials said.
Reham, Saad’s 27-year-old wife is at Tel Hashomer hospital, suffering from third-degree burns to 90 percent of her body, she too is on life support. Her four-year-old son is being treated of second-degree burns to over 60 percent of his body in the same hospital.
Back in the village, it’s quite today. The journalists have left; the walls of the Dawabsheh’s house have cooled down. But the smudge is still there, along with a horrific memory of a horrible night that the village won’t forget anytime soon.