Israel’s Punitive Home Demolition Policy, Explained – Yumna Patel 6/8/23


The Israeli military has admitted its policy of punitive demolitions does not work as a deterrent measure, and human rights groups have declared the policy violates international law. So, why does Israel continue doing it?

In the early morning hours of Thursday, June 8, a large convoy of Israeli military vehicles invaded downtown Ramallah, the central West Bank city and beating heart of the Palestinian Authority, in order to demolish the home of an accused Palestinian attacker.

The raid lasted for at least six hours. It sparked fierce confrontations between armed Israeli soldiers and local Palestinian residents, who threw stones and Molotov cocktails toward the heavily armed military fleet. At least six Palestinians were injured by live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas.

The massive raid, which reportedly consisted of more than 100 military vehicles and hundreds of Israeli troops, culminated in the destruction of the family home of Islam Froukh, 26, who is accused of carrying out two bus stop bombings in Jerusalem last November that killed two Israeli settlers, including a 16-year-old boy.

Video footage taken around the scene of the Froukh family home show Israeli forces cordoning off the area before rigging the apartment with explosives and detonating them, fully destroying the apartment, which sits on the first floor of a multi-story building.

Overnight, Israeli forces demolished the home of Islam Froukh’s family x Ramallah. Froukh is in Israeli jail, charged with setting off bombs in J’lem killing two Israelis last year… More on home demolitions as collective punishment:

— Rania Zabaneh (@RZabaneh) June 8, 2023

Naturally, the massive raid, gunfire, and explosions terrorized thousands of Palestinian residents in the surrounding area. It was also a sobering reminder that even in the heart of PA-controlled areas of the West Bank, Israel’s occupation still reigns supreme. Just miles away from the homes and offices of top Palestinian officials and leaders, Israeli army forces raided the city unperturbed and demolished the family home of a man it had already imprisoned.

In addition to questions surrounding why the Israeli military can raid Palestinian cities and blow up homes there (you can find the answer to that here), the raid has triggered one major recurring question:

Why does Israel destroy the homes of accused Palestinian attackers and their families?

In short, it’s a matter of policy.

Israel views it as a “deterrent measure” against future “terror attacks.” Rights groups say it amounts to collective punishment and is a cruel and inhuman policy used to target a civilian population living under military occupation.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has said the policy is “by definition, meant to harm people who have done nothing wrong and are suspected of no wrongdoing, but are related to Palestinians who attacked or attempted to attack Israeli civilians or security forces.”

Israel has been employing punitive home demolitions against Palestinians since it formally occupied the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. The state employs a British Mandate-era law, Regulation 119 of the Defense Regulations (1945), which gives “sweeping permission to forfeit, seal off and destroy property of inhabitants whom the military commander suspects of committing violence, regardless of whether they are the property owners or not,” according to Al-Haq. 

The Israeli High Court of Justice, or the Supreme Court, ruled in 2005 that home demolitions would no longer be subject to a hearing or judicial review, “effectively rubber-stamping the unlawful extrajudicial decisions of the military commander.”

Essentially, any Palestinian who carries out an attack, or is accused of carrying out an attack, against Israelis, be it soldiers or settlers in the West Bank, or Israelis inside the Green Line, is subject to having their home demolished by the state. There are no court hearings where the family can argue against the demolition, nor is the state required to present evidence.

While families are allowed to appeal a demolition once it’s been ordered, B’Tsleem says Israel’s Supreme Court views such petitions as “mere formalities – a technicality intended to create a semblance of upholding the owners’ right to plead their case.” …

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