Court Clears Way to Demolish Homes of Israeli Teen Trio’s Killers

Rejects petitions while delaying destruction until Thursday to enable study of how neighboring houses may be affected.

Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel
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From top: Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Fraenkel and Gilad Shaar. Center: The car thought to be used in the kidnapping.
Revital Hovel
Revital Hovel

The High Court of Justice yesterday rejected three petitions against the army’s decision to raze the homes of the suspected kidnapper-murderers of three Israeli teens.

However, it delayed the demolitions until 1 P.M. on Thursday to give the families time to submit an engineer’s opinion on how the move will affect nearby houses.

The three suspects are Amer Abu Aisheh, Marwan Qawasmeh and Hussam Qawasmeh. The first two, who allegedly perpetrated the June kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah, are still at large. Hussam Qawasmeh, who was captured last month, is suspected of helping to plan and finance the attack, bury the bodies and hide his two colleagues.

Justices Yoram Danziger, Isaac Amit and Noam Sohlberg said they found no flaw in the army’s decision that would merit court intervention. They also rejected the claim that since the state doesn’t destroy the houses of Jewish terrorists, the decision is discriminatory.

“It’s impossible to deny that acts of incitement and violence against Arabs have multiplied in Jewish society; this is regrettable, and it’s necessary to act forcefully against such occurrences,” Danziger wrote for the court. “But the comparison is out of place, because house demolitions in the territories aren’t used in cases of incitement and violence, but in especially severe cases of murder. I’m not overlooking the shocking case of the murder of the teenage boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a case that shocked the country and sparked wall-to-wall condemnations, but this was the rarest of rare occurrences. Therefore, it seems to me there’s no place for the artificial symmetry claimed by the petitioners to support their claim of discriminatory enforcement.”

The families also argued that the suspects’ guilt hasn’t yet been proven, and that demolishing their homes constituted collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. The state countered that the demolitions were necessary to deter other criminals, especially in light of “the significant deterioration of the security situation” in the West Bank.

Danziger noted that house demolitions are permissible by law, but said they are justified only if “there is a real military need for deterrence” and if they will create deterrence. Nevertheless, he accepted the state’s claim that this case satisfied both conditions, saying, “These assessments are at the heart of the respondent’s area of expertise, and the court will generally not intervene in them except in exceptional cases.”

He also rejected the claim that the demolitions disproportionately harmed the innocent. The army, he noted, has already agreed that Marwan Qawasmeh’s apartment, located on the ground floor of a four-story building, will be sealed up rather than razed, while in Abu Aisheh’s case, only one second-floor apartment will be razed, so as not to harm other relatives living in the building.

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