High Court Approves Demolition of Homes of Palestinians Who Killed Rabbi

Sharon Pulwer
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The scene of the stabbing at Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate, December 23, 2015.
The scene of the stabbing at Jerusalem's Jaffa Gate, December 23, 2015. Credit: AFP
Sharon Pulwer

The High Court of Justice approved on Tuesday the demolition of the homes of two Palestinians who murdered an Israeli man in Jerusalem in December.

A panel of three justices voted unanimously to reject the families’ request to block the demolition orders.

Anan Abu Habseh and Issa Yassin Asaf, both 21 and both of Qalandiyah in the West Bank, stabbed to death Rabbi Reuven (Eduardo) Birmajer, 45, at Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate in December. They stabbed two additional people, injuring them seriously. A second Israeli man, Ofer Ben Ari, 46, died after being hit by a stray bullet shot by Border Police officers who were subduing the assailants. One of the assailants was killed on the scene; the other died of his injuries soon afterward.

Abu Habseh’s family argued that he had lived in a single, 25-square-meter room on the roof of the home, a three-story building the family had erected on land owned by the UN Relief and Works Agency and allocated to them by the United Nations. The family said that destroying the roof apartment could destabilize the entire building and was therefore a disproportionate punitive measure.

Asaf’s family argued that his apartment was on the first floor of a five-story building where his parents, brothers and sisters all live, and that since his father knew nothing about his plan to perpetrate a terror attack, demolishing the house was disproportionate.

Justices Uri Shoham, Anat Baron and Hanan Melcer rejected both petitions.

“This was a murderous attack in which the perpetrators plotted to attack Jews just because they were Jews,” Shoham wrote, adding that the men were “motivated by hate” and showed “no human feelings.”

Shoham also noted that the state had provided evidence refuting the Hamad family’s claim that the UN owned the land under its home. But in any case, he wrote, “there’s no need to prove the perpetrator’s ownership of his residence.”

Baron, in her concurring opinion, stressed that “the gravity of an act of terror cannot in itself provide justification for demolishing the house of innocent people who had no involvement in the act, or at least knowledge of it.”

But in this case, she said, the state provided evidence that on the eve of the attack, Asaf wrote a Facebook post announcing his intention to become a martyr, and his father later told Shin Bet security service investigators that he was proud of his son.

“This information attests prima facie to support for terror within Asaf’s house and among his family,” she wrote. Consequently, it’s reasonable to conclude that “his relatives should have known about Asaf’s murderous intentions.”

In Hamad’s case, she added, there’s nothing disproportionate about the demolition, since he lived in the apartment by himself. Therefore, it “won’t leave any innocent people without a roof over their heads.”

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