Israel Drops Claims That Palestinian Attacker Had ISIS Ties, Bid to Ban Family From Jerusalem Stopped

The proceedings against family members of Fadi Qunbar, who killed four soldiers in truck ramming attack at Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv promenade, included a 10-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew

Israeli Zaka volunteers examine a body of one of the four Israeli soldiers killed when a Palestinian truck driver ran into the group at the Jerusalem promenade on January 8, 2017.
A Palestinian rammed a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers visiting a popular tourist spot in Jerusalem, killing four and wounding at least 15 people, authorities said.
GALI TIBBON/AFP

After Israel dropped its claim that relatives of a Palestinian who killed four soldiers in a truck ramming attack in Jerusalem in January were members of the Islamic State group, an administrative judge has ordered a rehearing of Interior Ministry proceedings to strip them of their stay permits and resident status meaning that they would have to leave Jerusalem.

In a ruling issued this week, Judge Ilan Halbaga granted an appeal filed by the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual on the grounds that an earlier Interior Ministry proceeding stripping the relatives of Fadi Qunbar, who carried out the attack at the Armon Hanatziv promenade, had been improperly conducted.

Qunbar, who was shot and killed in the course of his attack, lived in the nearby East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal Mukkaber. Several days after the attack, Interior Minister Arye Dery announced that he intended to strip relatives of Qunbar of their right to remain in Israel. The relatives have lived for many years in East Jerusalem, as spouses or children of permanent residents who applied for family reunification.

A notice sent to 12 of Qunbar’s relatives on January 25 stated: “A number of individuals in your extended family are suspected of having links to the Islamic State organization and of involvement in terrorist activity, and there is therefore a security concern over their continued presence in Israel.”

The 12 relatives included a 10-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy, Qunbar’s niece and nephew. In addition, Qunbar’s mother was served a notice revoking her Israeli residency status on allegations of bigamy. She has been living in Jerusalem for 30 years and had established the right to Israeli residency based on marriage.

On January 26, in response to an appeal filed by the Hamoked group on behalf of seven of the relatives, including the Qunbar’s mother and niece and nephew, the administrative court temporarily suspended expulsion orders against the seven. The expulsion orders against the two children were practically dropped.

In June, the state filed a brief that contained no mention of links to ISIS and instead included general claims of “an atmosphere supportive of terrorist attacks” in Jabal Mukkaber and stating that “revoking [residency] status will assist in deterring an increase in the phenomenon.”

At a hearing in September, Benjamin Agsteribbe, a lawyer for Hamoked, argued that this claim was new and, since his clients had not had an opportunity to present a defense to it, the case should be reheard. Judge Halbaga agreed and the Interior Ministry issued notices last week of new hearings for all of the clients except Qunbar’s mother.

This week the judge ordered the hearing dates postponed and a suspension of expulsion orders in the case and ordered the state to pay Hamoked its clients’ court costs. The ruling is also expected to affect the cases of the six other relatives who have not been represented by Hamoked. Qunbar’s mother’s case is proceeding as usual.

This suit is part of several measures the state has taken against the Qunbar family and should not be seen as a separate move. It is part of the state’s collective punishment of Palestinian attackers’ families. The collective punishment of Palestinians consisted so far of sealing off and demolishing houses and evicting families. Now the state is adding damages suits against the families to the repertoire.

The measures against Qunbar’s family are part of this policy. Its critics in Israel say it is not only illegal, but immoral, and instead of deterring future acts of violence, it instead exacerbates the cycle of retribution and revenge.