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Key Palestinian witness in triple-murder trial survives house fire

A Palestinian house in the West Bank has burned down, with Palestinian officials decrying the incident as the work of Jewish extremists. The man living in the house is a key witness in last July's deadly arson attack.

The witness Ibrahim Dawabsheh survived the blaze in the West Bank village of Duma, neighbors and police said on Sunday.

"The window was broken from the outside and flammable materials were found in the rubble," Malek Ali, fire chief for the nearby city of Nablus, told the AFP news agency.

The fire engulfed the bedroom of a family home late at night, with Dawabsheh and his wife in it.

"At around 1:30 a.m., I heard my brother and his wife call for help," said Dawabsha's brother Bashar, who lives downstairs.

"I went up to their floor and I saw the fire," he added.

The young couple managed to escape with no serious injuries and were subsequently hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

Settlers before court

Dawabsheh is a key witness of a widely publicized

arson attack

from July last year, when alleged Jewish extremists killed a Palestinian toddler and both of his parents in Duma. The man is also a relative of the murdered family.

Watch video 01:33

Israelis charged over West Bank arson

He was testifying before an Israeli court.

The Israeli authorities condemned the July firebombing, but drew criticism for a months-long investigation, with activists pointing out that Palestinian offenders were usually processed much faster.

In January, a court

charged two young Israeli settlers

for the triple murder.

Israel to investigate

Palestine Liberation Organization decried the Sunday attack, saying it was expecting "another sham investigation."

The organization would "hold the Israeli government fully responsible for the crimes in Duma," Secretary General Saeb Erakat said in statement.

Duma Brandanschlag West Bank

The residents claim the fire was started by a Molotov cocktail

UN humanitarian coordinator Robert Piper also "strongly condemned" the incident, which he said was carried out by "suspected Jewish extremists."

At the same time, Israel's Shin Bet internal security agency said preliminary information was not pointing to a "nationalistically motivated incident."

"The findings collected so far at the scene are not characteristic of deliberate Jewish arson attacks," a Shin Bet statement said.

Duma village is under Israeli jurisdiction and out of bounds for Palestinian police.

dj/jm (AFP, AP)

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