Major Spanish football team Real Madrid will be welcoming on March 17 a young Palestinian boy whose family was killed in an arson attack committed by Israeli settlers last year, the Palestinian Football Federation said on Saturday.
Ahmad Dawabsha, 5, was the sole survivor of a deadly arson attack carried out by extremist Israeli settlers on his family home in the northern West Bank village of Duma on July 30 last year. The child lost both his parents, Saad and Riham, as well as his 18-month-old brother, Ali.
Federation president Jibril Rajoub said in a statement that Real Madrid “sympathized with Dawabsha after a photo of him wearing the team’s uniform in his hospital bed went viral,” and agreed to host Ahmad later this month.
Ahmad will be accompanied by two adult family members, as well as a representative of the Palestinian Real Madrid supporters club.
Rajoub said the Spanish team’s move -- which was coordinated by the Palestinian ambassador to Spain Kifah Udah -- was “appreciated, and would have humanitarian dimensions.”
A campaign for Ahmad to meet his idol Cristiano Ronaldo has garnered international support in past months.
Several Israelis were arrested in late 2015 over the deadly arson attack on Ahmad’s family. In January, two Israelis, one of them a minor, were charged with three counts of murder and being an accessory to murder.
The attack sparked criticism from the international community for Israel's failure to hold Israeli settlers and Jewish extremists accountable for attacks on Palestinians, in effect being complicit in such attacks.
Israeli leadership at the time condemned the Dawabsha attack as "terrorism," and pledged to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Israeli rights group B'Tselem slammed the reaction by Israeli officials as "empty rhetoric."
"Official condemnations of this attack are empty rhetoric as long as politicians continue their policy of avoiding enforcement of the law on Israelis who harm Palestinians, and do not deal with the public climate and the incitement which serve as backdrop to these acts," the group said at the time.
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