PA: We’ll defend Jerusalem truck attacker’s family in international court
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PA: We’ll defend Jerusalem truck attacker’s family in international court

Palestinian foreign ministry says plan to revoke Israeli IDs of terrorist's relatives is part of 'schemes to create a demographic Jewish majority in the holy city'

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

A relative shows a mobile phone photo of Fadi Qunbar, 28, outside his home in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. Qunbar was identified as the terrorist who drove a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four and wounding 16 (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
A relative shows a mobile phone photo of Fadi Qunbar, 28, outside his home in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017. Qunbar was identified as the terrorist who drove a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers, killing four and wounding 16 (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said it would defend the family members of a Palestinian man who killed four soldiers in a terror attack on Sunday and take the matter to the International Court of Justice, after Israel announced plans to revoke the residency status of the truck attacker’s relatives.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri decided Monday evening to strip the residency status from the mother and 11 other relatives of Fadi al-Qunbar, a resident of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber, who plowed a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The twelve relatives of Qunbar were summoned to the Interior Ministry Tuesday to begin the process of revoking their Israeli residency. On Monday, the family also received a demolition order for their home in the East Jerusalem neighborhood.

The PA foreign ministry called the Israeli measures a “form of collective punishment against our Palestinian people,” and said it has raised the issue with other governments, the relevant United Nations agencies and international forums.

If Israel goes ahead with the punitive measures, the Palestinian Authority said it would bring the case to the ICJ.

Relatives of Jerusalem terrorist Ibrahim Fadi al-Qunbar, in their home village of Jabel Muqabar, January 10, 2016 (Avi Issacharoff)
Relatives of Jerusalem terrorist Ibrahim Fadi al-Qunbar, in their home village of Jabel Muqabar, January 10, 2016 (Avi Issacharoff)

“What [Israel] is doing is considered a crime and a blatant violation of international and humanitarian law, and part and parcel of Israel’s repressive measures against our people, particularly residents of Jerusalem, in order to terrorize them and make life difficult for them so that they leave the city in a step that would serve the occupier’s schemes to create a demographic Jewish majority in the holy city,” the ministry said in a statement.

Like Qunbar’s family, the vast majority of Arab East Jerusalemites are not Israeli citizens but rather have permanent resident status, which can by revoked by the interior minister at his discretion.

Those who have their residency statuses revoked will no longer be able to live in Israel, and will lose their access to social security and government healthcare.

However, there is no precedent for revoking the residency status of family members of Palestinian attackers.

Speaking to The Times of Israel on Tuesday, one Qunbar family member said: “If I beat my son, the police would arrest me, right? But why should I be punished if my son does something, when he is over 18? What’s the point? Why are you punishing the family? We didn’t do anything and we didn’t know anything.”

So far, no Qunbar family member has admitted knowing of the attack in advance.

On Sunday, shortly after the deadly attack, when asked by a reporter for the Quds News Network what she thought of the attack, Qunbar’s sister responded, “God chose him for this martyrdom. Thank God. We are patient and we thank God for this… It is the most beautiful martyrdom.

Deri made the decision to revoke the family members’ residency after consulting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, officials from the Shin Bet domestic security agency, and officials from the Population and Immigration Authority.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri addresses the Israeli parliament during a question period in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, November 7, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri addresses the Israeli parliament during a question period in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, November 7, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“We must fight with all our strength and by any deterrent means in order to prevent the next terror attack,” Deri said. “From now on terrorists considering an attack will know that their families will pay a price for their actions.”

The Shas party leader and interior minister told Army Radio in an interview Tuesday that Qunbar, “an Israeli resident with an Israeli ID card, got into the truck and saw soldiers and decided to run them over and imitate what happened in Berlin and Nice — this is a phenomenon that we need to deal with.”

Qunbar was shot dead at the scene of the attack, in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood of the capital.

A composite image of the four Israeli soldiers killed on January 8, 2017 in a truck-ramming terror attack in Jerusalem. From left, IDF Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, IDF Cadet Shir Hajaj, IDF Cadet Shira Tzur, IDF Cadet Erez Orbach. (Handout photos IDF Spokesperson)
The four Israeli soldiers killed on January 8, 2017, in a truck-ramming terror attack in Jerusalem. From left, IDF Lieutenant Yael Yekutiel, IDF Cadet Shir Hajaj, IDF Cadet Shira Tzur, IDF Cadet Erez Orbach. (Handout photos IDF Spokesperson)

The four soldiers killed in the truck-ramming — Lt. Yael Yekutiel, 20, of Givatayim, Lt. Shir Hajaj, 22, of Ma’ale Adumim, 2nd Lt. Erez Orbach, 20, of Alon Shvut, and 2nd Lt. Shira Tzur, 20, of Haifa — were buried on Monday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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