3 July '08: B'Tselem to Mazuz: Prevent demolition of home belonging to family of Jerusalem attack perpetrator

3 Jul 2008

Following the attack perpetrated by a tractor driver yesterday in Jerusalem, killing three and injuring dozens, the media have published calls by politicians and public figures to demolish the home belonging to the family of the attack perpetrator, in the village of Sur Baher.

In addition, the media reported that Deputy Attorney General Adv. Shai Nitzan will call a meeting today, to discuss legal possibilities of imposing sanctions on terror attack perpetrators holding Israeli ID cards, and their families. Representatives of the government and the defense establishment are to take part in the meeting, which was originally set to be held several months from now and was brought forward following the attack.

B'Tselem wrote today to Attorney General Mazuz demanding that he prevent the demolition. In its letter, B'Tselem pointed out that the demolition of houses as punishment is a grave breach of international humanitarian law. The declared objective of this policy is to harm innocent persons - relatives of suspected perpetrators, who are not accused of any criminal wrongdoing themselves. The demolition of houses is a clear case of collective punishment, which violates the principle that a person is not to be punished for the acts of another. Collective punishment is therefore illegal regardless of its effectiveness.

Regarding effectiveness, a committee appointed by former Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon found that the house-demolition policy did more harm than good to Israel's security. The committee's finding undermines the claim that Israel has used for many years, that the policy deters potential terrorists.


From October 2001 to the end of January 2005, Israel demolished 667 Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories as a means of punishment, leaving more than 4,200 persons homeless. Half of the demolished houses were adjacent to the family homes of suspected perpetrators of terror attacks.

In February 2005, the abovementioned committee recommended that the policy be stopped. The same month, then-Defense Minister Mofaz adopted the recommendation.