The High Court of Justice approved on Tuesday the demolition of a home belonging to Ziad Awad, who has been charged with the murder of off-duty police officer Baruch Mizrahi. The demolition was due to take place 12 hours after the ruling was handed down.
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Mizrahi, a 47-year-old father of five, was gunned down on April 14 when he was on his way with his family to the Passover seder.
Justices Miriam Naor, Yoram Danziger and Uri Shoham rejected the petition against demolishing the house where Awad lived, in the village of Idhna near Hebron.
The petition had been submitted by the suspect's wife, his brother Mohammed Awad, the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, the Public Committee against Torture in Israel, and Physicians for Human Rights. Among other things, the petitioners claimed that the house in question is actually owned by Awad's brother.
In its response to the appeal, the state said: “The demolition of the apartment where [Awad] lived is vital to deter other terrorists from perpetrating additional severe attacks.” The state bolstered its reaction by citing the worsening of the security situation in the territories, and the kidnapping of the three teenage boys whose bodies were found Monday.
Attorney Aner Helman, who represented the state, added that wielding the authority that allows home demolitions “will contribute significantly to deterring other attackers.”
In a hearing on Monday, which was attended by Mizrahi’s widow, Naor asked why the state wished to demolish the building rather than merely seal it off. Helman answered that the circumstances were extreme and that “sealing it off would be ineffective.”
Only last week was approval given to publicize the news that Awad was arrested on May 7. He had been released from an Israeli prison in November 2011, as part of the deal in which kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit was released from captivity. Awad had been charged, among other things, with the murder of three Palestinians whom he suspected of collaborating with Israel, and he was supposed to be released from jail in 2026.
Last week, the military prosecutor's office indicted Awad together with his 18-year-old son, who allegedly drove him away from the murder scene on a motorcycle.
The state said in its response to the petition that the authority to demolish the structure had been transferred to Israel's attorney general on June 16, four days after the kidnapping of the three teens, and more than a month after Awad’s arrest for the murder of Mizrahi.
On June 23, the local Israel Defense Forces commander told the suspect's family that the entire building was to be demolished and that they had the right to object to that decision. In light of their complaint, the original directive was revised so as to permit destruction of only that part of the building in which Awad's nuclear family lived.
The petitioners criticized this decision because it deviated from the policy adopted in 2005, based on recommendations by the state's Shani Commission to prohibit demolitions of homes. The state countered that even though it had adopted the panel’s recommendations, it still reserved the right to resort to such moves in extreme cases.
No homes in the territories have been demolished since 2005. Three demolition orders were issued in 2009 and 2012, however, for the homes of terrorists living in East Jerusalem (those who perpetrated the 2008 terror attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, and those involved in attacks involving crashing into vehicles in the western part of the city), on the grounds that this was a new phenomenon in East Jerusalem that had to be stopped.
The petitioners on behalf of Awad stated that destroying homes is ineffective and does more harm than good, and that family members of the suspect are in any event innocent. The state's response: Demolitions, which date back to the Mandate era, are aimed at deterring rather than punishing. Moreover, the Shani Commission's recommendations allow demolitions in extreme cases, and in the state’s opinion, Awad’s case fits that description.
The state added: “In our opinion, the case before us is an extreme one. [The defendant] was charged with killing three people ... He was released in the Shalit exchange, and one of the conditions of his release was that he never return to violence.”