Israel demolished three homes in January in punitive actions, leaving 18 persons homeless; 29 demolitions carried out since Oct. 2015

Published: 
14 Jan 2016

On the morning of 4 January 2016, large police and Border Police forces came to the Jabal al-Mukabber neighborhood in East Jerusalem and demolished the apartment that was home to the family of Bahaa ‘Alian, a Palestinian who was killed while carrying out an attack against Israel civilians in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem. In the attack, Alian killed Haviv Haim and Alon Govberg and injured Richard Lakin, who died later of his wounds. The security forces broke down the external walls of the apartment, which was situated on the second story of a three-story building. Eight people lived in the apartment, including ‘Alian’s parents, his siblings, and their families, including two minors.

Home of 'Alian family in Jabal al-Mukkaber. Photo by Mus'ab Abbas, B'Tselem, 4 Jan. 2016
Home of 'Alian family in Jabal al-Mukkaber. Photo by Mus'ab Abbas, B'Tselem, 4 Jan. 2016

On the same day, police and Border Police forces sealed off an apartment in Jabal al-Mukabber that was home to the family of ‘Alaa Abu Jamal, who was killed after attacking and killing Israeli civilian Yeshayahu Krishevsky in Jerusalem. The forces used concrete to seal the apartment, which is situated on the first story of a three-story building inhabited by the extended Abu Jamal family. During the legal proceedings pursued by the family and HaMoked: Centre for the Defence of the Individual against the sealing of the home, the family claimed that ‘Alaa Abu Jamal, his wife, and their three minor children actually lived in another apartment close to the family building. According to the family, Abu Jamal’s sister and her family lived in the apartment that was sealed.

The High Court of Justice (HCJ) rejected the petitions submitted by the families and by HaMoked. On 22 December 2015, in a majority ruling, the HCJ approved the demolition of the home of Bahaa 'Alian's family and the sealing of the home of the Abu Jamal family.

Home of Halabi family in Surda, before and after demolition. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem
Home of Halabi family in Surda, before and after demolition. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem

On 9 January 2016, large police and Border Police forces came to the village of Surda in the Ramallah District, accompanied by a bulldozer, in order to demolish the home of the family of Muhannad Halabi, who was shot and killed while carrying out an attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, in which he killed Israeli civilians Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Bennett. On 28 December 2015, the HCJ rejected the petition submitted by the family and by HaMoked against the demolition. Muhannad Halabi’s parents lived in the demolished house together with their four children, two of whom are minors.

These acts of destruction on the part of Israeli security forces left 18 persons, including seven minors, homeless – although none of them were suspected of any offense. Since October 2015, Israel has stepped-up its use of house demolitions as a punitive measure. In October, the authorities blew up three homes (also demolishing two adjacent apartments) and sealed another apartment. In November, the authorities demolished 14 apartments, eight of which were not slated for demolition. In December, the authorities demolished six apartments, four of which were not slated for demolition. Following the demolitions over the past few days, the total number of apartments demolished or sealed by the authorities since the beginning of October has now reached 29. In addition, in recent months security forces have surveyed dozens of homes belonging to families of individuals who committed attacks against Israeli civilians, or are suspected of committing or being involved in such attacks, with the intention of demolishing these homes in the future.

The justices of the HCJ have repeatedly sanctioned the state’s use of this inhumane measure, which is prohibited under international law and constitutes collective punishment. The Court has permitted Israeli authorities to pursue this extreme course of action despite the clear position of jurists in Israel and abroad that it is unlawful. The petitions to the HCJ concerning punitive home demolitions were based on a 1988 ruling of the same court, following a petition submitted by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), that the authorities must allow families to turn to the court before the demolition takes place, in cases concerning punitive demolition. Since that ruling, however, the Court has rejected almost all petitions on the matter, adopting an approach of almost wholesale authorization of home demolition. Such conduct cannot be considered more than lip service to the notion of judicial review.