Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman ordered a halt to the practice of returning West Bank Palestinian attackers’ bodies to their families for burial on Thursday, a day after two Palestinian terrorists killed four people and wounded 16 in a shooting attack in central Tel Aviv..
Liberman discussed the idea during a meeting of the security cabinet earlier in the day, breaking with the approach held by his predecessor in the post, Moshe Ya’alon, who opposed withholding remains.
The meeting was convened to discuss possible responses to the Sarona Market attack.
During the meeting, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also called unequivocally to stop returning the bodies of attackers to their families and to reestablish a cemetery where such remains were buried by Israeli authorities up until about a decade ago — a proposal Liberman reportedly said he was not opposed to.
According to a source who spoke to the Haaretz daily, Erdan said that Israel should renew the policy that prevailed during the Second Intifada, and bury the remains of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks in a special cemetery rather than return them to their families.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked the National Security Council to form a committee to examine the issue.
During the three-hour-long meeting, Liberman asked Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit if it would be possible to expedite the legal process for destroying attackers’ homes.
“We should be leveling [their] homes withing 24 hours. Why is that not happening?” Liberman asked Mandelblit, who responded that Israel was governed by the rule of law and that due process took longer than that.
According to Haaretz, Liberman insisted that a number of countries have a policy of destroying homes within a day, but when asked which countries he was referring to, Liberman did not respond and moved on to other items on the agenda.
While Israel has formally adopted the controversial policy of destroying the homes of Palestinian attackers, even if their families are living there, as a deterrent measure, fewer than a dozen demolitions have been carried out over the eight-month wave of terror attacks that began in October.
During the security cabinet meeting, ministers were updated on “intelligence and operational activity by the security services over the past 24 hours and the actions being taken by the security establishment,” according to a press release by the Prime Minister’s Office, including barricading the West Bank village of Yatta, the terrorists’ hometown; revoking work permits from family members of the terrorists; and canceling all permits for West Bank and Gaza Palestinians to visit Israel during the month of Ramadan.
The last measure was criticized by the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, which claimed that it had “no security justification,” and amounted to collective punishment.
“There is no justification and no reason to punish more innocent people for actions over which they have no control and for crimes they did not commit,” the group, which advocates freedom of movement for Palestinians, said in a statement. “Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens. Canceling travel permits for Friday prayers has no security justification and appears to be an arbitrary act of collective punishment.”
According to the PMO statement, work to plug the gaps in the security fence in the Tarkumiya-Meitar area south of Hebron, through which the two terrorists from the attack are believed to have entered Israel, will begin on June 28 and the budget has already been allocated.
Israel has also deployed additional forces to the area until the work is completed, the PMO said.