Israeli Military Moves to Raze Terrorists’ Homes as Soon as Possible After Attacks

Army says demolitions are most effective when close to actual attacks; demolishes Nablus home of leader of Hamas terror cell that killed Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in October.

Three Israeli officers stand guard in the Shoafat refugee camp, ahead of the demolition of Ibrahim al-Akari's home, December 2, 2015.
AFP

The Israel Defense Forces has started mapping the houses of Palestinian terrorists within 24 hours of an attack, in a bid to speed up its controversial home-demolition policy. A senior defense official says that quickly implemented demolitions are the most effective, although he admits the process is “draconian.”

The IDF’s latest home demolition took place in the early hours of Thursday morning, when it razed the Nablus home of Ragheb Ahmad Muhammad Aliwi, the Hamas cell commander behind the October 1 murder of Israelis Eitam and Na’ama Henkin.

Aliwi recruited the four terrorists who carried out the murders and supplied them with their weapons. He had previously been imprisoned for terror activity. All five members of the cell have been arrested. The Henkins, both in their 30s, were driving with their four children when their car came under fire in the West Bank. The children, all boys, survived the attack.

The High Court of Justice approved the demolition of Aliwi’s home on Tuesday. The houses of three other cell members were razed last month. Also Tuesday, the High Court vetoed the demolition of the home of Nur al-Din Abu Hashaya, who stabbed a soldier to death at a Tel Aviv train station in November 2014. The High Court ruled that the state had waited too long to carry out the demolition, saying the army couldn’t “turn the clock back” and that the delay caused unnecessary hardship to the family.

The IDF began implementing its new policy on the demolition of terrorists’ homes last week: It is sending troops to terrorists’ homes within 24 hours of the attack and conducting a survey – the first step in preparations for demolition. The new policy places those who have murdered Israelis at the top of the list of priorities.

A senior IDF officer told Haaretz that the razing of terrorists’ homes is an effective tool. “If on the same night that someone stabbed to death [someone and we could demolish his home], then we would do so,” he said.

The senior defense official agreed that quick demolitions were most effective, adding that he would like to see a shortening of the process for securing the approval of demolitions.

The demolition of terrorists’ homes is a controversial policy whose effectiveness was previously questioned by the IDF. However, in light of the recent spate of terror attacks, the government has reintroduced the policy. On Wednesday morning, for example, the IDF demolished the Shoafat home of Ibrahim al-Akri, who rammed his car into a crowd at the Shimon Hatzadik light rail station in Jerusalem in November 2014, killing two Israelis.

However, the IDF has yet to demolish the homes of all terrorists who carried out deadly attacks. The IDF can only carry out the demolitions after receiving instructions from the government and gaining approval from the High Court, which can be petitioned by the families of the terrorists.

The IDF has also been surveying the homes of some Palestinians who launched terror attacks that did not prove fatal, including Mamoon Raed Muhammed al-Khateeb, 16, who attempted to stab a pedestrian at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank last Tuesday but was shot dead by a soldier.