House Demolitions as Punishment

Israeli security forces recently demolished the homes of 6 Palestinian families in the West Bank as retaliation for attacks their relatives are suspected of perpetrating against Israelis. The blasts rendered another 8 apartments uninhabitable, leaving homeless 39 people, incl. 17 minors, suspected of no wrongdoing. Although it constitutes collective punishment prohibited by international law, this extreme policy has been repeatedly sanctioned by Israel’s High Court. Demolishing or sealing a home is a draconian, vindictive measure directed at entire families suspected of no wrongdoing.

Home of the ‘Amer family, neighbors of the Abu Shahins, damaged by the demolition and no longer habitable. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem, 16 Nov. 2015
November 17

B’Tselem Executive Director El-Ad in an op-ed in Israeli daily Haaretz: The political and legal systems have been thrown into turmoil by Supreme Court Justice Vogelman scheduling an emergency hearing on demolition of the homes of the families of Palestinian perpetrators of attacks. Yet all party to this round of legal-administrative brutality can breathe easy: demolitions were sanctioned, are sanctioned, will be sanctioned by the court. Then, a family – which no one claims is guilty of any wrongdoing – will find its home reduced to a pile of rubble, or poured full of concrete.

Ruins of home of Shaker Ja’abis, his wife and their four children, destroyed in the demolition of his brother’s home, one flight up. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem, 6 October 2015.
October 29

Authorities Oct. 6 demolition of two flats and sealing of another in East Jerusalem as collective punishment for attacks by occupant’s relatives left 13, including 7 children, homeless. Most did not live in the units slated for demolition. A policy of demolition attackers’ family homes is collective punishment - prohibited under IHL. Despite widely held legal experts’ opinion that this radical measure is unlawful, the HCJ repeatedly approves it. Demolishing or sealing a home is a draconian measure targeting entire families who have done nothing and are suspected of nothing.

The ruins of the Abu al-Jamal family home in East Jerusalem. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem, 7 October 2015
October 7

On 1 July , the police sealed the home of ‘Udai Abu al-Jamal, one of the perpetrators of the Har Nof synagogue attack last November. His family received a demolition order two days after the attack, and a petition filed by HaMoked to stop it was rejected. Sealing a home is a draconian, vindictive measure taken against an entire family, suspected of nothing.

A window sealed in the Family's home. Photo: 'Amer 'Aruri, B'Tselem, 1 July 2015
July 1

Since the Nov. 2014 attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, in which Palestinians killed four worshippers and wounded seven, the authorities have threatened punitive action against the assailants’ families: demolition of the homes and deportation the wife of one of them, Nadia Abu al-Jamal. She and her children may be cut off from family and friends and denied many official services. The children would lose their state health insurance. Israel must stop punitive measures against family members who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Nadia Abu al-Jamal and her children. Photo: courtesy of the family
June 18

On 27 Nov. 2014, Adv. Michael Sfard petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of HaMoked and 7 other Israeli human rights organizations to rule the policy of punitive home demolition unlawful. The petition is backed by a legal expert opinion authored by some of Israel’s top jurists, asserting that the policy severely contravenes international humanitarian and human rights law and the fundamental tenet of Israeli law whereby people cannot be punished for actions other than their own. The opinion stresses that this policy may be considered a war crime in certain circumstances, with the attendant risk for those involved in its implementation.

Demolition of Dwayat family home in Sur Baher, East Jerusalem. Photo by Kareem Jubran, B’Tselem, 7 April 2009.
November 27

Israeli Prime Minister has ordered the demolition or sealing of the homes of the families of the Palestinians who carried out recent attacks against Israelis. This action constitutes harming the innocent. It is collective punishment that is both unlawful and immoral. The security establishment has announced its intention to demolish or seal six homes: three in East Jerusalem, one in Nablus and one in Hebron. Since 1967 Israeli security forces have demolished hundreds of homes to punish relatives of Palestinians who harmed or allegedly harmed Israelis.

November 16

Last night (18 Aug.) the military demolished the homes of two of the suspects in the abduction and killing of the three yeshiva students, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, near Gush Etzion two months ago. The home of a third suspect was sealed. The homes were demolished after the HCJ denied three petitions filed by HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, leaving 23 innocent people, including 13 minors, without a roof over their heads. The HCJ's ruling is not surprising: for decades, the HCJ has denied the vast majority of the petitions filed against punitive house demolitions and refused to recognize the unlawfulness of this practice.

Boy trying to recover items from his home, demolished as a punitive measure in Bethlehem. Photo: Magnus Johansson, Reuters, 15 June 2004
August 18

It is unsurprising that the HCJ rejected HaMoked’s petition against demolition of the home of the 2 Palestinians charged with killing Baruch Mizrahi as it has rejected most such petitions against punitive home demolitions, refusing to recognize their unlawfulness. Since 1967 the military has rendered homeless thousands of people not themselves accused of wrongdoing. The military gave up this policy in 2005, yet the state considers it justified now in view of the circumstances. This unreasonable position is meant to sanction draconian measures of collective punishment in response to the charged public atmosphere in the wake of the abduction and killing of 3 yeshiva students.

The 'Awawdeh children in their house. 23 June 2014. Photo Manal al-Ja'abri, B'Tselem.
July 1

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that the family home of the two Palestinians indicted for the attack that killed Baruch Mizrahi be demolished. Two families numbering 13 individuals, including 8 children, live in that home. Demolition of the home would equal adoption of an official policy that harms the innocent. "We have nowhere else to go. If the house is demolished, we'll put a tent on top of the ruins and live there" said Hanan ‘Awawdeh to B'Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja'abri, who visited her last week and took the photos. Following an urgent objection filed by Israeli human rights organization HaMoked, the military announced its intention to demolish only the section of the house. The military is set to carry out the demolition tomorrow, Monday, at 12:00 midday.

Inhabitants look at a room emptied in preparation for the demolition. Photo: Manal al-Ja'abri, B'Tselem
June 29

The intention to demolish the family home of the two Palestinians charged with the killing of Baruch Mizrahi means adopting an official policy of harming the innocent. The two suspects will be tried for the attack, and are expected to be sentenced to long periods of detention. Their family members, who are not suspected of any offence, are the ones who will suffer the loss of their home: 13 people are currently living in the house, including 8 children. Years ago, the army concluded that punitive home demolitions are not an effective measure to deter attacks against Israelis. It seems therefore that the motives are reaping revenge and politically capitalizing on the current public mood in Israel, in light of the abduction.

Palestinian boy trying to recover items from his home, demolished as a punitive measure. Photo: Magnus Johansson, Reuters, 15 June 2004
June 23

B'Tselem has written to the Israeli Attorney General, Adv. Yehuda Weinstein, requesting him to reject the Israel Security Agency (ISA) recommendation to demolish the 'Awarta homes of the families of Amjad and Hakim Awad, who murdered five members of the Fogel family in March 2011. B'Tselem Executive Director Jessica Montell wrote that the attack carried out by Amjad and Hakim Awad is shocking and horrifying. Nothing about that attack, however, makes harming their relatives, who were never found guilty of involvement of any kind, legal or moral.

Punitive home demolition in East Jerusalem. 2009. Photo: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem
May 10

The demolition of houses as punishment is a grave breach of international humanitarian law. It is a clear case of collective punishment, which violates the principle that a person is not to be punished for the acts of another.

August 6

The demolition of houses as punishment is a grave breach of international humanitarian law. It is a clear case of collective punishment, which violates the principle that a person is not to be punished for the acts of another.

July 3

B'Tselem wrote to the Attorney General demanding that he prevent the planned demolition. The declared objective of this policy is to harm innocent persons - relatives of suspected perpetrators of attacks, who are not themselves accused of any crime.

March 14

Following the announcement that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz requested the approval of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to demolish the homes of suicide-bombers' families, B'Tselem requested the attorney general to prevent the illegal policy from being reinstituted.

December 6

Last week it was reported that an IDF committee recommended that the IDF end its use of punitive house demolitions. B'Tselem called on the military to immediately adopt this recommendation.

February 17