Israeli army forces demolished Thursday the family home of a Palestinian-American who murdered an Israeli citizen and wounded two others in the West Bank in May.
The U.S. Embassy in Israel denounced the move, saying that all sides should “refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution, this certainly includes the punitive demolition of Palestinian homes. As we stated numerous times, the home of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual."
Muntasir Shalabi shot and killed 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta at the Tapuah junction in the West Bank two and a half months ago. The High Court rejected in June the petition by the Shalabi’s family against the demolition of the house in the village of Turmus Ayya, where Shalabi's wife and three children had lived.
A source at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's Office later issued a statement saying: "The prime minister appreciates and respects the American administration. At the same time, he acts solely in accordance with the State of Israel's security considerations and protecting the lives of Israeli citizens."
During the demolition, clashes erupted between army forces and about 200 Palestinians, who hurled stones and firecrackers at the Israeli soldiers. The army resorted to riot-control measures to disperse the crowd. No casualties have been reported.
Justices Yitzhak Amit, David Mintz and Ofer Grosskopf rejected the petitioners’ claim that Shalabi does not officially reside in the building where the family lives, because the center of his life is in the United States.
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The family – all of whom hold a U.S. citizenship – claims that Shalabi works and lives in the United States, where he married three additional women in unofficial Islamic ceremonies and had a child with one of them. The justices ruled that Shalabi himself noted that the house, where he had lived previously with his parents, was registered under his name after their deaths and that he would live there for two months each year.
Justice Amit agreed with his colleagues but criticized state representatives who claimed that “family members’ knowledge of Shalabi’s intention to carry out an attack should not be ruled out" despite the state representatives not explicitly saying so.
“This is not the way to raise such an important claim, and it can be expected that when the respondent believes that there is an indication of the involvement or awareness of any of the family members, this will be raised and emphasized already in their response,” Amit wrote in his ruling.
Justice Mintz cited the ruling that “the need for deterrence remains even when concerning a residence that includes minors.” The justices rejected the family’s claim that Shalabi suffered from mental health issues and ruled that he carried out the attack out of a nationalist motive.
Jonathan Lis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.