Security forces demolished the family home of a Palestinian terrorist who killed three Israelis during a West Bank home invasion and stabbing attack last month, the Israeli military said Wednesday, as relatives faced charges for failing to stop the deadly assault.
Omar al-Abed, 19, killed three members of the Salomon family on July 21 after sneaking into the West Bank settlement of Halamish. The family had been about to celebrate the birth of a new grandson and let him in, thinking that he was the first of their guests to arrive.
Israeli forces entered the village of Kobar in the central West Bank early Wednesday and demolished the bottom floor of an apartment building that was the al-Abed family’s home.
After the demolition, Michal Salomon, whose husband, Elad, was stabbed to death in the attack, said the measure was insufficient and called for harsher punishments for terrorists, including the death penalty.
“Their house can be rebuilt, my home has been destroyed forever,” she said in a statement. “We need the death penalty so that these terrorists will not be able to build a new home, and if not the death penalty, then we need to seriously toughen their imprisonment conditions and withhold from them everything but the minimum, things like television or the possibility of education.”
Coming less than a month after the Halamish terror attack, the accelerated home demolition was out of the ordinary. Home demolition orders generally take months to be carried out, as the families of terrorists often appeal the decision to the High Court of Justice. The court typically upholds the military demolition order, but the process delays its implementation by several months.
Clashes broke out between locals and Israeli forces carrying out the demolition work, according to a report by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency. It said a cameraman was injured by a rubber bullet.
A military spokesperson said dozens of local residents attacked the troops carrying out the demolition with burning tires and small improvised explosive devices. The soldiers dispersed them with less lethal weapons, namely tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
The spokesperson said the military also received reports of one Palestinian injured in the clashes.
Israel defends the practice of demolishing terrorists’ homes as an effective means of deterring future attacks, though it has been criticized as a form of collective punishment.
The other floors of the building appeared to be unharmed by the demolition work, which left load-bearing pillars in place.
The family had reportedly been anticipating the demolition and had moved its belongings out of the home shortly after the attack.
Likud MK Yehudah Glick praised the IDF for the speed with which it carried out the demolition. “This needs to be the ambition — a quick response. Zero tolerance for terror,” the lawmaker wrote in a tweet.
The quick timing of the razing, just a few weeks after the attack, may have been linked to police announcing Tuesday they intend to charge five members of al-Abed’s family with failing to stop the attack despite knowing about his plans beforehand.
Al-Abed was shot and injured during the attack by an off-duty soldier after killing Yosef Salomon, 70, and his two children, Chaya, 46, and Elad, 36. Yosef Salomon’s wife, Tova, sustained several stab wounds to her back but survived.
Al-Abed has not yet been charged.
Since the attack, security forces have arrested the father, mother, two brothers and cousin of al-Abed, all of whom police say knew beforehand of his intention to carry out the stabbing yet took no actions to stop him or inform Israeli or Palestinian authorities.
Police said the case has been handed over to military prosecutors, whose filing of the pre-indictment notice at the Ofer military court near Ramallah will allow authorities to continue to hold the family members in custody until they are indicted.
Hours after the attack, the IDF raided al-Abed’s home in Kobar, mapped it for demolition and arrested another one of his brothers, whom officials suspect aided him in carrying out the attack.
In the ensuing days, the army also arrested al-Abed’s mother, Ibtisam, for “aggravated incitement,” after she appeared in a widely shared video praising her son’s actions.
Al-Abed’s father, Abd al-Jalil, who was arrested in the initial raid, told the Haaretz daily last month that his son’s actions were understandable.
The brutal nature of the attack sparked calls for Israel to seek the rarely used death penalty, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
However, the Military Advocate General’s office, which will try the case in an IDF court, said that the punishment is not Israeli policy, despite it being permissible under military law in terror cases.
Separately, IDF forces shuttered two stores in the Deheishe refugee camp outside Bethlehem early Wednesday that officials said were the source of materials used to build explosives for terror attacks.
And in late Tuesday arrest raids in the West Bank, security forces arrested 12 Palestinians, seven of them suspected of taking part in violent demonstrations, according to the army.