Israeli High Court Approves Demolishing Home of Palestinian Accused of Murdering Settler

Israeli justices divided on the Shin Bet's opinion about the effectiveness of demolishing Palestinians' homes in preventing future terrorist attacks

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
The scene of the murder of Esther Horgen, near her home in Tal Menashe in the northern West Bank, December 2020.
The scene of the murder of Esther Horgen, near her home in Tal Menashe in the northern West Bank, December 2020.Credit: Rami Shllush
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Israel’s High Court of Justice gave its stamp of approval on Wednesday for the army to destroy the home of Muhammad Kabha, a Palestinian man accused of murdering Esther Horgen, a woman from a West Bank settlement, last month.

Justices Isaac Amit, Daphne Barak-Erez and Anat Baron rejected a petition by Kabha’s family to halt the demolition order for the home, which also houses his wife and three children, who are minors, as well as his parents.

Two of the justices thought there was no room for interfering with the military’s choice: Amit wrote that family members’ prior knowledge or support for a terrorist act is one of the reasons she decided the house could be razed, but added, “this isn’t an essential condition.”

Barak-Erez said her decision was made “considering this is a measure being taken after a particularly cruel murder that was committed for clearly nationalist reasons.”

Justices Isaac Amit, Daphne Barak-Erez and Anat Baron hearing the petition against the house demolition, last week.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

In a minority opinion, Baron said that the demolition order should be restricted to only the third floor, where Kabha was living. “While the third floor of the home was used by the attacker for his needs, the second floor is a home for other family members, Kabha’s wife and three children, who are minors, and they are indisputably innocent and had no involvement in the attack neither from the outset nor in retrospect,” Baron wrote.

The justices were also divided on the opinion the Shin Bet security service presented about the effectiveness of home demolitions, which Israeli authorities say they see as a deterrent against further terrorist attacks. Amit accepted the Shin Bet’s assessment that “home demolitions are an effective and necessary means, and can prevent future terrorist attacks,” while Baron wrote that there is “substantial doubt” over that question.

Barak-Erez wrote that she would back the majority decision but urged a reassessment of the legality of home demolitions in principle by a larger contingent of justices.

Muhammad KabhaCredit: Shin Bet

Kabha is suspected of murdering Horgen while she was walking in the woods near her home in Tal Menashe in the northern West Bank. He fled the scene and was arrested four days later. Israeli authorities say he admitted to the murder and said it was for nationalist reasons, as revenge for the death of a friend who had died of an illness in an Israeli prison.

Kabha had previously spent three terms in an Israeli prison for terrorist-related offenses, including involvement in a shooting attack and making explosive devices.

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