Newborn Twins Left Homeless After Israel Demolishes Palestinian Terrorist's Home

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The remains of the home of Mohammed Harub in Deir Samet, who is charged with killing three at the Gush Etzion junction in November 2015.
The remains of the home of Mohammed Harub in Deir Samet, who is charged with killing three at the Gush Etzion junction in November 2015.Credit: Alex Levac

Khaki Harub is 3-year-old who lives in the village of Deir Samet, adjacent to Dura in the South Hebron Hills. This week he said that he wants to kill a Jewish soldier. The reason: “The soldiers wrecked my house.” His father then stuffed a shekel into the toddler’s hand and he ran off from the ruins that were his home until last week to buy candy. Khaki, in Arabic, means “my right.”

Khaki’s house was demolished last week because it had also been the home of his older brother, Mohammed Harub, 22, who last November 19 perpetrated a shooting attack at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank, in which two Israelis, Ezra Schwartz and Rabbi Yaakov Don, and a Palestinian, Shadi Arafa, were killed. About two hours before that attack, Harub’s neighbor in Dura, Riad Masalma, stabbed to death two Israelis, Reuven Aviram and Aharon Yesayev, in an office building in south Tel Aviv.

Last week, between Monday night and Tuesday, Israel Defense Forces troops demolished the homes of the two assailants, leaving 19 people homeless. According to the Israel human rights organization B’Tselem, Israel has already demolished or sealed 31 houses and apartments since the start of the current uprising last October. Fourteen of them were not actually earmarked for demolition, but were destroyed during the razing of neighbors’ homes in the wake of terrorist acts.

This week the High Court of Justice also approved, by majority vote, the demolition of the home of another Palestinian, Ibrahim Saqafi, who rammed into a Border Policeman with his car, killing him. Justice Zvi Zylbertal wrote in the minority opinion that the defense establishment had not presented sufficient evidence to show that Saqafi had acted with malice aforethought. Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces took measurements ahead of the demolition of the home of another Palestinian, who tried to perpetrate a stabbing attack at the Gush Etzion Junction last week.

Israel is thus proceeding full steam ahead with its policy of demolishing the homes of terrorists – collective punishment in every respect, whose effectiveness and deterrent capacity has never been proved.

The home of the Masalma family, which stood atop a hill in the Tarusa neighborhood of southwest Dura, is now a heap of stones. Money was not spared in construction here – many iron rods jut out amid the piles of bricks and marble panels. A Palestinian flag and three green Hamas flags, attached to the iron rods, flap in the breeze. It was a new house and, with an area of 170 square meters, quite spacious. The family moved in during 2013. The ruins suggest elegance. The living-room furniture was bought just a month and a half before the stabbing attack.

The house’s owner, Riad Masalma, remains in custody until the conclusion of the proceedings against him. He’s 37, a cook with a permit to work in Israel who was employed in a Tel Aviv restaurant before his arrest – very different from the typical profile of the new knife-wielders. His wife, Samahar, and their five children are now crowded into one room in the home of the grandparents in Dura. The twins, Ruaya and Mahmoud, a boy and a girl, are 4 months old; they were born just three weeks before the attack.

“Their father was with them for only 20 days,” says Saud Masalma, Riad’s brother-in-law, cousin and friend, who is wearing a Real Madrid T-shirt. He shows us a photograph of the intact house on his cell phone: indeed, a fine stone structure.

The hills in the area are verdant now; Israel can be seen sprouting up in the west. The Masalma family removed everything from the house before it was destroyed. When the bulldozers arrived, along with large numbers of soldiers, after midnight on Monday, it was empty.

Bashar Aikimi, a teenager whose family lives in the adjacent house, says the soldiers locked him and the rest of the family into one room during the demolition. When the soldiers left, around 4 A.M., they didn’t bother to unlock the door and let them out. Only after another neighbor summoned a locksmith were they able to leave.

According to Saud, what drove his brother-in-law to perpetrate the attack was a raid by IDF soldiers on Al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron to capture a wanted man, and the killing of the young knife-wielding girls. That’s what made his blood boil and impelled him to go on a killing spree, three weeks after the birth of his twins and a month and a half after buying a new living room set for 30,000 shekels ($7,500).

The house of Mohammed Harub in nearby Deir Samet is still standing. It’s an even larger stone structure, but the IDF made do here with demolishing a part of the second of three floors, where Harub lived. The walls and windows of that floor are shattered; the beds, furniture, washing machine and television were pulverized by a bulldozer. Red marks made by the army engineers are smeared on the remains of the walls.

Abdul Basat Harub, the father of the man charged with the murder of three people at the Gush Etzion Junction, is a gold merchant of 51, who has three wives and 25 children. Mohammed is one of them. His father had just returned from the military court in Ofer detention facility, where Mohammed’s case is being heard. The families of the two murdered Jews were also in the courtroom. They looked at him, he relates, but did not say a word to him.

We are sitting on the wreckage of the sofa in what was once the living room. Abdul Basat Harub speaks quite a good Hebrew. He’s done a lot of business with Israelis in the past. According to family lore, Moshe Dayan had dealings with the family: They sold him antiques and he paid for them in gold, which was cheaper back then.

“Let’s put it like this: Mohammed did not do what he did because he did not have money,” his father says. “Mohammed did what he did because of what he saw. He saw what is being done to our girls. He saw what they [the Israelis] are doing to Al-Aqsa. We are being killed in large numbers and the settlers are only growing. For 22 years they’ve been saying they want peace but they are not doing anything. He saw that. If we are not given a state and Al-Aqsa, there will be no peace.”

The second floor was occupied by Mohammed’s mother and her eight children, including his brother, Khader, as well as Khader’s wife and their four children. They will not be allowed to rebuild this floor, and Israel is also not allowing anyone to live on the other two floors for the next five years. A large poster of Mohammed now covers the outside of the demolished apartment. Most of the property inside was destroyed during the many searches the army carried out immediately after the attack. The soldiers came 25 times, Mohammed’s father says. The family is now living in a rented home.

“Why,” the father asks now, “wasn’t the home of the person who burned the Dawabsheh family [in nearby Dura] demolished? And the home of the person who burned [Jerusalem youth Mohammed] Abu Khdeir – why isn’t it being demolished? There will be no peace like this. We wanted to live with the state in peace, but you are not letting us. There will be no peace with the state of settlers. Until you go to your country and we are in our country, there will be no peace. Two states – there will be peace. If not, no peace.

“How many homes have been demolished?” he continues. “Has it achieved anything? Have the attacks stopped? Are there fewer attacks? There are only more of them. The demolition of homes actually pushes people to more attacks. You punish the women and the children and you create more people who hate. That only encourages more attacks. Here, look at my boy, Khaki, 3 years-old and he already wants to kill a soldier.”