IDF demolishes homes of Sarona Market terrorists
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IDF demolishes homes of Sarona Market terrorists

One house exploded, other partially destroyed in accordance with court order; elsewhere, soldiers seize gun-making machinery

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli troops demolished the homes of two terrorists who carried out a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv, knocking down one structure and exploding the other early Thursday morning.

On June 8, cousins Khalid and Muhammad Muhamra opened fire on a Max Brenner restaurant in the posh Sarona Market shopping area, killing four and wounding 41.

They were captured alive immediately after the attack and are currently awaiting trial on murder charges along with another Palestinian man, Younis Ayash Musa Zayn, accused of helping the two.

Last month the Supreme Court approved a demolition order for the cousins’ homes, which the army said was carried out in the early hours of Thursday morning.

IDF troops place explosive charges on the home of Khalid Muhamra, a terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv's Sarona Market, before detonating the building on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
IDF troops place explosive charges on the home of Khalid Muhamra, a terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market, before detonating the building on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

IDF troops filled Khalid Muhamra’s homes with explosive material and detonated it in order to destroy the building, in Yatta, a village outside of Hebron.

In nearby Ruq’a, an excavator was used to knock down the second floor of Muhammad Muhamra’s house, in accordance with the court’s ruling.

An Israeli excavator demolishes the top floor of the building where Muhammad Muhamra, a terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv's Sarona Market, lived on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
An Israeli excavator demolishes the top floor of the building where Muhammad Muhamra, a terrorist who carried out a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market, lived on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

The army had originally planned to destroy both floors of the building where Muhammad Muhamra lived, but the court ruled that only the top floor could be demolished.

In its decision, the judges noted that there were indications that some of Khalid Muhamra’s family members knew he was involved in illegal weapons trafficking and his sister had shared Facebook posts supporting terror and even praised her brother’s attack in a post after the fact.

In addition, Muhammed Muhamra’s interrogation indicated that his father knew he was interested in purchasing a weapon.

Khalid Muhamra, left, Younis Ayash Musa Zayn, center, and Muhammad Muhamra, right, sit behind a glass window during their indictment in a Tel Aviv District Court on July 4, 2016. The three Palestinian men have been charged with murder in connection with the June 8 terror attack at the Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv in which four Israelis were killed. (Flash90)
Khalid Muhamra, left, Younis Ayash Musa Zayn, center, and Muhammad Muhamra, right, sit behind a glass window during their indictment in a Tel Aviv District Court on July 4, 2016. The three Palestinian men have been charged with murder in connection with the June 8 terror attack at the Sarona Market in central Tel Aviv in which four Israelis were killed. (Flash90)

“There is reason to believe that there was an environment in the houses where the attackers lived, encouraging them, in one way or another, to be involved in security crimes against Israelis,” the decision read.

According to the Shin Bet security agency, the assault in Sarona was planned after a July 2015 arson attack by Jewish extremists in the West Bank that killed three members of the Palestinian Dawabsha family, including an 18-month-old baby.

Muhamra had wanted to carry out “a revenge attack against Israel in the name of the Islamic State” group during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Shin Bet said last month.

Israeli medical and security forces at the scene of a terrorist attack at the Sarona Market shopping center, Tel Aviv, June 8, 2016. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)
Israeli medical and security forces at the scene of a terrorist attack at the Sarona Market shopping center, Tel Aviv, June 8, 2016. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

Violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel since October has killed at least 219 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count. Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities. Others were killed in clashes with security forces.

July continued a trend of decreasing terror attacks in the West Bank, according to IDF statistics. Palestinian assailants carried out, or attempted to carry out, nine attacks on Israeli civilians an soldiers in July, the same number as in June and May. That’s approximately a third of the number of attacks in March, and a massive decrease compared to October 2015, when 70 incidents were recorded.

Israeli officials say the home demolitions are a key deterrent to keep other Palestinians from carrying out attacks, though human rights groups and some Israeli security officials argue that it is a form of collective punishment, or that it is not an effective deterrent.

Wednesday night and Thursday morning also saw a number of IDF raids throughout the West Bank, resulting in four arrests and the confiscation of four pieces of equipment believed to have been used to fabricate illegal weapons, the army said.

A drill press seized by IDF troops on August 4, 2016, in al-Qubeiba, north of Mevasseret Zion, which is believed to have been used to create illegal guns. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A drill press seized by IDF troops on August 4, 2016, in al-Qubeiba, north of Mevasseret Zion, which is believed to have been used to create illegal guns. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Members of a Home Front Command rescue unit, along with the Israel Police, seized metal lathes and drill presses in the village of al-Qubeiba, just north of Mevasseret Zion, and arrested their suspected owner.

In the northern West Bank village of Abu Salman, Israeli forces also discovered a gun in the process of being constructed and two air pistols, which have been handed over to the Shin Bet security service, the IDF said.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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