Human Rights Watch called on Israel Saturday to immediately impose a moratorium on its policy of demolishing the family homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks on Israelis.
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According to the international organization, the policy deliberately and unlawfully punishes people not accused of any wrongdoing, and when carried out in the West Bank and East Jerusalem amounts to collective punishment, which is a war crime.
“Punitive home demolitions are blatantly unlawful,” said Joe Stork, the organization's deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Israel should prosecute, convict, and punish criminals, not carry out vengeful destruction that harms entire families.”
Israel's policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian terrorists drew heavy criticism in the past and has rarely been used in recent years, but Israel is resuming the practice after a nine-year hiatus in the hope of deterring potential attackers.
On Thursday, Defense officials have issued demolition orders for the homes of four Palestinians who committed terror attacks in Jerusalem in the past month — two for the synagogue attack this week, one for an attack on the light-rail system and one for attempted assassination of a right-wing activist. The orders follow a pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to step up home demolitions as a punitive measure for a wave of attacks, many of them by residents of East Jerusalem.
On Thursday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein considered the requests to demolish the five families’ homes and found no legal obstacle, based on the principles set by the High Court, the Justice Ministry said.
“Following this, one home has already been demolished, a final decision to demolish another has been made, and three homes are in various stages of the process,” the ministry said. “As for other homes whose demolition is being considered, the issue is still under legal examination.”
On Wednesday, the security forces demolished the home of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, who drove his car into a light-rail stop last month. At 4 A.M. police evacuated the building in East Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood, before the police, Engineering Corps and Border Police set off explosives that destroyed the fourth-floor apartment. Neighbors said the demolition damaged other apartments nearby.