The Israeli army has demolished a residential building owned by a prominent Palestinian activist, whose six sons have been imprisoned by Israel.
The building, owned by Latifa Abu Hmeid, is located in the Amari refugee camp near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.
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According to an Anadolu news agency reporter based in the area, Israeli soldiers raided the camp early Saturday, surrounding the building before bringing it down in a controlled demolition.
Before razing the four-storey structure, the army evicted dozens of journalists and solidarity activists who had been inside the building in a bid to prevent its destruction.
Israel accused one of Abu Hmeid’s sons of killing an Israeli soldier in May.
Protesters called the destruction a form of collective punishment.
Neighbours said several hundred residents, including children, were ordered out of their homes and kept in a sports field in the cold night while the army operation continued.
Following the demolition, confrontations broke out between local residents and Israeli troops, with the latter using tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition to disperse the crowds.
At least 56 Palestinians have been injured in the protests against the demolition.
Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians who carry out attacks against Israelis.
Abu Hmeid also has a son who was shot dead by Israeli army troops in 1994.
Voicing defiance, Abu Hmeid told Anadolu that the building’s destruction “will not break our will”, vowing to rebuild the structure “as soon as possible”.
“All my sons have been either martyred or imprisoned, and that didn’t break me,” she said.
“This is the third time they’ve destroyed my home,” Abu Hmeid added.
Saeb Erekat, Chief Palestinian Negotiator, told Al Jazeera from the Doha Forum event that this demolition could lead to more violence in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
“This is a war crime by the government of the occupying authority … [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu is fully responsible with his government with the war crimes being committed against the Palestinian people,” Erekat said.
“Einstein was once asked what is madness and he responded, by repeating the same experiences and experiments with the same tools and expecting different results.
“Netanyahu believes that by demolishing homes, killing Palestinians he will get peace and security. He is pushing Palestinians and Israelis further and deeper into the cycle of violence and counterviolence; that’s the truth.”
In recent days, at least five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces – and dozens more injured – across East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Three Israelis have also been killed including two soldiers in a drive-by shooting on Thursday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced pressure from right-wing rivals and Jewish settlers for a strong response following the shooting.
It was the third deadly attack by Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank in two months and set off demonstrations by settler groups upon whose support Netanyahu’s government depends.
On Friday, the Palestinian Prisoners Association said the Israeli army had detained some 100 Palestinians throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem since dawn Thursday.
Natasha Ghoneim reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank said that the tense atmosphere continues to persist throughout Ramallah; schools and universities are closed for the day.
“The demolition, the raids, the administrative detention of Hamas members, the increased military presence at checkpoints and roads coming into Ramallah – these are all measures that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to take in retaliation over these three deaths,” Ghoneim said.
“On the Palestinian side, of course, there’s a lot of anger. [Palestinian] President Mahmoud Abbas is being diplomatic, saying he condemns violence but also saying that there’s been an atmosphere created here, a lack of hope over the peace process, settlers calling for his assassination, that have made it ripe for these kinds of conditions.”