Israel begins demolishing homes over attacks

Contentious punitive tactic resumed with razing of building housing family of Palestinian man blamed for October attack.

Israel has demolished the home of a Palestinian in East Jerusalem who it says carried out a deadly October attack, just hours after Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, warned of strict security measures in response to Tuesday’s synagogue killings in Jerusalem.

The house demolished on Wednesday in the Silwan neighbourhood near the Old City belonged to Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, who last month killed two people among a crowd standing on a light rail platform in Jerusalem.

Four families who lived in the building – including that of al-Shaludi – had to evacuate, Al Jazeera’s Dalia Hatuqa reported from East Jerusalem, adding that the entire neighbourhood was closed off by Israeli security forces.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from outside the demolished house, said people in the area considered the Israeli action as a form of collective punishment – “a wider way to punish – even the extended family”.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu ordered the destruction of the homes of the Palestinians involved in the synagogue attack.

Punitive demolition was a tactic frequently employed by Israeli security forces before defence chiefs decided to suspend it in 2005 after concluding that it was not an effective deterrent.

Since then the policy has been used occasionally – three times in East Jerusalem in 2009, and three times over the summer in response to the killing of an Israeli policeman and the murder of three Israeli teenagers.

Rubble of family home

Sitting amid the rubble of the family home in Silwan on Wednesday, al-Shaludi’s grandmother said: “No one should feel sorry for us, for our demolished home.”

She said she was proud of al-Shaludi’s actions. The October attack killed a three-month-old baby girl and a 22-year-old woman. The attacker was shot and killed.

Against this backdrop of Palestinian home demolitions, Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from West Jerusalem, said the local council had announced the controversial construction of 78 new homes in occupied East Jerusalem.

“This had not been publicised earlier. It is a final approval and they will be put out for tender,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Jewish worshippers returned to the scene of Tuesday’s attack – the Kehilat Bnai Torah synagogue in the West Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof.

Cousins Ghassan Abu Jamal and Oday Abu Jamal, using meat cleavers, knives and handguns, stormed the synagogue, killing four worshippers and a policeman.

The Palestinian assailants were killed by Israeli police.

All four of the slain congregants had immigrated to Israel from English-speaking countries – three from the US and one from Britain.

Netanyahu’s warning

Netanyahu said late on Tuesday that he had ordered security forces to hit back hard at Palestinians involved in violence against Israelis, and to resume the policy of home demolitions.

Al Jazeera’s Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from West Jerusalem, said confrontations had so far prevented the Israelis from demolishing the homes of the Abu Jamal cousins.

Tensions remain over access to Al Aqsa compound

“But it is pretty safe to say that it will eventually [be carried out]. All this lends to general unease in the East of Jerusalem which has really been brewing for some time now,” he said.

In recent weeks, a total of 11 people have died at the hands of Palestinian attackers using guns, knives and vehicles – most in Jerusalem but also in Tel Aviv and the occupied West Bank.

Jerusalem has seen its worst sustained bout of violence since a Palestinian uprising a decade ago.

The synagogue attack was the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008 and came amid weeks of violence linked to the city’s Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

For Muslims, the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City is the Noble Sanctuary, home to al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock.

The location is also revered by Jews.

Palestinians have been angered over stepped-up Israeli visits to the site, which many of them see as a provocation.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies