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Israel’s top court blocks home demolition of accused Palestinian attacker

Published: Updated:

Israel’s top court on Monday blocked the military’s plans to demolish the home of a Palestinian accused of killing a soldier, in a ruling condemned by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The decision marked a rare judicial rebuke of Israel’s controversial practice of destroying the homes of Palestinians suspected of carrying out attacks that critics say amounts to illegal collective punishment.

Israeli soldier Amit Ben Ygal was killed by a stone-thrower on May 12 while his unit was patrolling in the village of Yaabad, near Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

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Family members and friends mourn during the funeral of Amit Ben Ygal, a 21-year-old Israeli army soldier who was killed in the village of Yaabed near the West Bank city of Jenin on May 12, 2020. (AFP)
Family members and friends mourn during the funeral of Amit Ben Ygal, a 21-year-old Israeli army soldier who was killed in the village of Yaabed near the West Bank city of Jenin on May 12, 2020. (AFP)

Israel arrested several people that day and later identified Nizmi Abu Bakr as Ygal’s suspected killer.

Trials of Palestinians suspects in the West Bank are conducted by Israeli military tribunals.

Abu Bakr has not yet been convicted but his home demolition had already been scheduled.

His family successfully appealed the demolition order, arguing that innocent people with no role in the attack would suffer.

In a 2-1 decision seen by AFP, Israel’s high court ruled that “the (suspect’s) wife and children have no connection to the criminal acts of the father, neither by helping him, nor by knowing his intentions, nor by aiding him after the fact.”

“Destroying their home will leave them homeless,” and would amount to “a violation of respect for human rights,” the judgement said.

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Netanyahu called it a “miserable decision” on Twitter and demanded a new high court hearing, with a larger panel of judges.

“My policy as prime minister is to destroy the homes of terrorists and I intend to continue it,” he said.

The father of the slain soldier, Baruch Ben Ygal, quoted by Israeli media, condemned the court ruling as “a gift for terrorism.”

Hamoked, an Israeli rights group that assists Palestinians living in occupied territory and filed the appeal on behalf of Abu Bakr’s family, praised the decision.

But it voiced regret that the court had not gone a step further by “completely prohibiting this policy of destroying houses which amounts to collective punishment.”