The state prosecutor on Monday reiterated to the High Court the government’s intention to demolish the apartment of Ziad Awad, a convicted terrorist released in 2011 as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit. Awad was re-arrested in May for the Passover eve murder of Baruch Mizrahi, an off-duty policeman, near Hebron.
The court convened Monday to discuss the appeal and debate the merits of the state’s case. While the appellants’ attorney urged the state to refrain from sanctioning a move that would punish the innocent relatives currently occupying the house, Mizrahi’s widow Hadas issued a heartfelt plea to the court, stressing the importance of deterrence to preventing future attacks on innocents.
“You talk about the terrorist. Look at us. We were innocents and suffered,” she said.
“We were riding in a car on Passover eve, we were shot at. The terrorist continued to shoot. He hit Baruch. He shot at our heads. I managed to hide the children. I escaped him. What cruelty,” she said, sobbing.
“We hadn’t done anything. We were innocent. The terrorist’s family hid him. He went on. He went back home. We were hurt,” she said.
“The State of Israel decided to free the terrorists in the Shalit exchange. [But] we need deterrence in this country, and one of the methods of achieving that is by demolishing the terrorist’s house. I’m calling out. I’m hurt. I was wounded by bullets, I’m handicapped, I have five children who are physically injured. Look at me,” she cried. “More families will get hurt.”
Awad, a Hamas member, and his son Izz Eddin Hassan Ziad Awad were arrested on May 7 by the Israel Police’s elite counter-terrorism unit in collaboration with the Shin Bet.
After Awad’s arrest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that his family’s house in the village of Idhna, in the Hebron area, be demolished to deter Palestinians from engaging in terrorist activity in the future. The state announced last week that the building would be demolished.
However, the Center for the Defence of the Individual (Hamoked) appealed the state’s decision at the High Court, saying it was illegal according to international law.
On Monday, the state defended its decision, saying it was legal by both Israeli and international law.
In its response to the appeal, the state wrote to Justice Noam Solberg that in light of the escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, which peaked with the kidnapping of three Israeli students earlier this month, the demolition of Awad’s home was vital to Israel’s efforts to deter terrorists from carrying out attacks.
“The demolition of the house of the terrorist who murdered Baruch Mizrahi will contribute to deterring other potential terrorists,” IDF Central Command head Maj.-Gen. Nitzan Alon told the court.
In its statement, the state said Awad had violated the terms of his release from prison by taking up terrorist activity once more and abusing his authority as an imam to call for suicide bombings against Israeli targets.
It added that the Awad family home had been slated for demolition for years – even more so now that it was found to be a hotbed of terrorist activity.
“The terrorist and his family lived in an apartment that was slated for demolition in the years leading up to the terrorist’s arrest. As evidenced by his son’s testimony, the terrorist also conducted preparatory activities, including experiments with weapons using a silencer in the shed of the building,” wrote the state.
It added, however, that the terrorist’s apartment would be the only part of the building to be demolished.
“There is no intention of damaging the other parts of the structure,” the state wrote.
As of Monday afternoon, left-wing NGOs continued to protest the demolition order, saying it would only serve to punish innocents.
“The intention to demolish the home of the family of those accused of killing Baruch Mizrahi constitutes the adoption of an official policy of harming innocents. Both defendants accused of carrying out the attack will stand trial. If convicted, they will likely serve lengthy prison sentences. The heavy price of the loss of their home will be paid not by them, but by their relatives, who are not suspected of any crime,” wrote human rights NGO B’Tselem.
It added that two families were living in the house at present, numbering 13 people in all, including 8 children.