Israel Demolishes Homes of Palestinian Suspects in Soldier's Murder

Cousins Nseir Asafra and Kassem Asafra were arrested two days after Dvir Sorek's body was found near the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz

Demolished house of Palestinian suspects in Israeli soldier's murder, Beit Kahil, West Bank, November 28, 2019
Nasser Nawaja / B'Tselem

Israeli forces demolished on Thursday the homes of four Palestinian suspects in the August murder of an Israeli soldier in the West Bank.

Palestinian reports said early Thursday that Israeli soldiers entered the village of Beit Kahil, near Hebron, with bulldozers and engineering equipment in order to carry out the demolition. Security forces clashed with local youth, the reports said.

"During the operation, a violent confrontation ensued, involving dozens of Palestinians throwing stones and burning tires at IDF personnel," an IDF statement issued at 7 A.M. local time confirmed. "Soldiers responded using riot control measures." There were no reports of injuries.

According to the IDF statement, the demolition targeted four people, Nseir, Kassem and Ahmed Khalil Asafra, and Yusef Said Attia Zahor, who the army said were involved in Dvir Sorek's killing in the West Bank settlement cluster of Gush Etzion.

Cousins Nseir, 24, and Kassem, 30, were arrested two days after Sorek's body was found near the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz. Kassem's wife Enas was arrested along with them, as was a third man, Akrama Asafra, on suspicion of aiding them. Days later, the Israeli military mapped the cousins' homes to prepare for the possible demolitions.

The family appealed then against the demolition order with Israel's High Court of Justice but their appeal was unsuccessful.

Israeli defense officials said that questioning of the suspects reinforced the assessment that the Asafras didn't operate under the guidance of any Palestinian group in the West Bank or Gaza, but rather made a spur-of-the-moment decision when they saw Sorek walking alone toward his settlement. 

Sorek, a 19-year-old from Ofra, had drafted into an army yeshiva program shortly before his murder on August 9. According to authorities, Sorek was returning in civilian clothing to the West Bank from a trip to Jerusalem, where he went to buy religious books. Sorek's family contacted the authorities that night and reported him missing after didn't answer his cellphone. 

Security forces say Sorek was attacked and stabbed while walking from a square near the settlement of Efrat toward the entrance gate of Migdal oz, a distance of 200 meters [656 feet].

A statement from Naftali Bennet, who was appointed Israel's defense minister in mid-November, saluted the demolition operation. 

"Unfortunately, we cannot ensure that there will be no more terror, but we can make sure terrorists pay a heavy price," the far-right politician said in an official statement.

Sorek's murder took place during Israel's drawn-out electoral process, with the settlement issue a major campaign item for embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Days after the attack, Netanyahu had reinforced his intention to widen the settlement enterprise, saying "we will deepen our roots in our homeland, in all of its parts."