Court greenlights demolishing home of terror suspect accused of killing student

Judges reject appeal by family of Muntasir Shalabi, charged with killing Yehuda Guetta, 19, and injuring two others in West Bank last month

Yehuda Guetta, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank (courtesy)
Yehuda Guetta, 19, was killed in a drive-by shooting in the West Bank (courtesy)

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday unanimously rejected a petition against the pending demolition of the West Bank home of Muntasir Shalabi, suspected in the shooting attack last month that killed Israeli student Yehuda Guetta and wounded two other teens.

Shalabi’s family had argued against the planned move, claiming he had hardly lived there, but justices said the information gleaned from the investigation into the attack had shown otherwise. The house was owned by Shalabi, they said, and the suspected terrorist had also renovated it.

As for the family’s claims of the demolition order being collective punishment, the court said the need to provide a deterrent against future attacks was weightier than the need for consideration of the relatives who may have been uninvolved.

Last month IDF Central District Commander Tamir Yadai signed off on an order to demolish Shalabi’s home in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya. The home has been mapped out for demolition.

Shalabi has been charged at the Judea Military Court with intentional homicide, three counts of attempted homicide, possession and use of an unlicensed weapon, and obstruction of justice.

Shalabi, 47, is suspected of driving to the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank on May 2 and opening fire at a group of Israeli students from a nearby yeshiva in the Itamar settlement. The shooting fatally wounded 19-year-old Yehuda Guetta, seriously injured a second teenager and lightly wounded a third.

Muntasir Shalabi, suspect in a May 2, 2021, West Bank drive-by shooting, in an undated photo (Courtesy)

According to court papers, prosecutors say Shalabi had decided to carry out an attack at the junction a month earlier, but twice put it off because he didn’t feel well.

On the day of the attack, he drove to the junction with a pistol on the passenger seat, hidden beneath a prayer mat. Pulling to a stop alongside the bus stop, he shouted “Allahu akhbar!” (God is great) and opened fire, continuing to shoot until the pistol malfunctioned and jammed. He drove off as soldiers guarding the junction opened fire at him. Though he was injured, he escaped to the West Bank town of Aqraba where he ditched the car, which was later torched by locals as soldiers arrived to seize it.

Shalabi was eventually arrested following a three-day manhunt, an hour after Guetta succumbed to his injuries.

Shalabi, a father of seven, is not believed to have any affiliation with Palestinian terror groups, the Shin Bet security service has said.

Israeli authorities often take punitive action such as home demolitions before a conviction in cases of terrorist attacks. Israel defends the practice of razing the family homes of attackers as a deterrent against future assaults, and officials have argued that speed is essential, claiming that the deterrent factor degrades over time.

Over the years, however, a number of Israeli defense officials have questioned the efficacy of the practice, and human rights activists have denounced it as unfair collective punishment.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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