Israel's Top Court Halts Home Demolition of Palestinian Accused of Killing Soldier

The army didn't issue the demolition order until five months after the attack, meaning it wouldn't serve as a deterrent, justice says

Hagar Shezaf
Netael Bandel
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Nasir Asafra and Qassem Asafra, also suspects in the murder, had their Beit Kahil homes demolished November 28, 2019
Nasir Asafra and Qassem Asafra, also suspects in the murder, had their Beit Kahil homes demolished November 28, 2019Credit: Nasser Nawaja / B'Tselem
Hagar Shezaf
Netael Bandel

The High Court of Justice on Monday canceled an order to demolish the floor of a home where Mahmoud Atawna, the accused killer of soldier Dvir Sorek, had lived. Justices ruled that the time that has passed since Sorek was fatally stabbed in Gush Etzion in August has erased the element of detererence.

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Justices Anat Baron and Uzi Vogelman granted the petition against the planned demolition in Beit Kahil, near Hebron, leaving Justice David Mintz in the minority. The petition was filed by Atawna’s family and Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual.

Baron wrote that the army didn’t issue the demolition order until five months after the attack, after the homes of other members of the terror cell had been destroyed. “The longer the gap between the attack and the demolition of the home of the attacker, the less the deterrent effect inherent in the home demolition,” she wrote. “Lacking a deterrent effect, the inevitable impression is that the home demolition is being sought as a solely punitive measure.”

The decision also noted that Atawna’s family was not accused of involvement or having knowledge of his intent to harm a soldier and did not express support for the attack after the fact.

Sorek, 18, lived in Ofra, and was killed near the settlement of Migdal Oz, where he was a student. Two days after the murder, two suspects, Nasir Asafra and Qassem Asafra, were arrested and their homes in Beit Kahil were demolished. A week later Atawna was arrested, and the army informed the family of the demolition plans in January. The prosecution said the gap in the timing was because Atawna at first denied direct involvement in the killing, while the other alleged perpetrators were said to hav admitted to the crime at an earlier stage.