Israel razes homes of four Palestinians in West Bank
Deterrent or collective punishment?
Israeli troops razed the West Bank homes of four Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis yesterday, pressing a controversial policy of punitive demolitions after weeks of deadly unrest. The demolitions came hours after two Israelis were shot dead in an apparent ambush near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron on Friday in the most serious attack on Israelis in nearly a month. In Nablus in the northern West Bank, troops destroyed the homes of three Palestinians accused of killing an Israeli settler couple on October 1 at the start of the latest flare-up of violence, the army said.
Before dawn, the army destroyed the family homes of Kerem Razek, Samir Kusa and Yahya Haj Hamed, all three of whom are awaiting trial for the murder of Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in their car in front of their young children. In Silwad, northeast of Ramallah, the army razed the home of a Palestinian accused of killing an Israeli on a West Bank road in June. The home of Mouad Hamed, accused of killing Malachi Rosenfeld, was destroyed in a controlled explosion that caused damage to at least two neighboring houses, an AFP photographer reported. The demolitions in Nablus prompted clashes between protesters and the Israeli army in which nine Palestinians were wounded, two of them by live ammunition, Palestinian medical sources said. The army operation came after the High Court ruled in favor of the demolitions on Thursday.
The policy is controversial even in Israel. The government argues it acts as a deterrent but critics say the main victims are relatives forced to pay for another person’s actions. Last month, the government ordered an intensification of the policy in response to a wave of stabbing and shooting attacks and other deadly unrest. Dalia Kerstein, director of the Hamoked NGO which filed the appeals against the demolitions, said she had expected the families to be given 48 hours to leave. “( The demolitions) are immoral, it is collective punishment and they will ignite the West Bank,” she said. “How can (Israelis) not see it will fan the flames?”
Demolition orders against several other homes of alleged attackers are still being contested in the Israeli courts. The intensified demolitions are among a raft of gettough policies Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered under pressure from far-right coalition partners. They also include minimum jail terms for Palestinian stone-throwers, looser rules of engagement for the army and the withholding of the bodies of alleged attackers to prevent their funerals becoming political rallies. But the crackdown has done little to stop the violence. Since October 1, 12 Israelis have been killed. On the Palestinian side 81 people have died, including one Israeli Arab. Many have been alleged attackers but they have also included protesters shot in clashes with the army. Friday saw three Palestinians die after being shot by troops.
WEST BANK: Palestinians look at the rubble of the house of Palestinian Yahya Hamad, a member of a group accused of killing an Israeli settler couple in the Itmar settlement after it was destroyed by Israel yesterday. —AFP