Arson suspects not charged to 'protect intelligence': Israel

Palestinian women look at the damage at the Dawabsha family's home in the West Bank village of Duma on Aug 4, 2015.
Palestinian women look at the damage at the Dawabsha family's home in the West Bank village of Duma on Aug 4, 2015.AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel's defence minister said Thursday that some of those believed responsible for a deadly firebombing of a Palestinian home are in custody but not being charged to protect intelligence sources, media said.

Moshe Yaalon's remarks were the first official acknowledgement that at least some suspects in the attack, which has increased tensions in the West Bank and sparked international condemnation, are in custody.

Authorities have been heavily criticised for charging anyone with the July 31 attack by suspected Jewish extremists in the West Bank that killed an 18-month-old boy and fatally injured his parents.

The only survivor was the couple's four-year-old son, who remains in hospital.

Three alleged Jewish extremists are being held in a controversial form of internment without trial - known as administrative detention - but have not been publicly charged.

"The perpetrators of the Duma attack are known to the Israeli security services and some are locked up," Yaalon told journalists.

"We have not brought charges for the time being so as not to divulge our sources, but we are continuing our efforts to bring them to justice."

"We are convinced that the attack was perpetrated by Jews belonging to a very extremist group... Measures taken so far, particularly administrative detentions, are aimed at preventing another attack."

Yaalon did not identify the suspects, nor say whether they include the three in administrative detention.

Authorities have also restricted the movements of 10 other people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strongly condemned the firebombing and pledged to use all legal means to bring the attackers to justice.

He labelled the attack "terrorism" - a word usually used by Israelis to refer to violence by Palestinians.

Authorities have been criticised for not cracking down sooner on Jewish extremism.

July's firebombing shared similarities with previous hate crimes known as "price-tag" attacks.

The term refers to extremists warning that there would be a price to pay for any action by Israeli authorities they regard as hostile to the Jewish settlement movement or to far-right religious beliefs.