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High Court approves demolition of home of Esther Horgen’s suspected killer

Justices say Muhammad Mruh Kabha confessed to terror attack and there’s ‘strong, external evidence’ confirming his statement; one judge dissents on destroying 2nd floor of building

Esther Horgen, 52, who was found dead in the northern West Bank in a suspected terror attack on December 20, 2020. (Courtesy)
Esther Horgen, 52, who was found dead in the northern West Bank in a suspected terror attack on December 20, 2020. (Courtesy)

The High Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces can destroy the home of the Palestinian man who confessed to killing Esther Horgen in a terror attack in December.

The decision came following an appeal by the family of suspect Muhammad Mruh Kabha against the demolition.

Although the panel of three judges agreed on the demolition of the home, there was a difference of opinion on how much of the building could be included in the order, with Justice Anat Baron holding a minority opinion that only one of two floors could be destroyed.

“It can be clearly stated that there is administrative evidence that exceeds the required threshold of required evidence,” the court found, noting that Kabha has confessed to the crime while admitting he was motivated by nationalism, and that there is “strong, external, objective, evidence” confirming his confession.

IDF troops map out the home of a Palestinian man suspected in the murder of Esther Horgen, ahead of its potential demolition, in the West Bank village of Tura, near Jenin, December 24, 2020 (IDF video screenshot)

But Baron maintained that destroying the second floor of the building, where Kabha’s wife and three children live, would be disproportionate as they were not involved in the attack, had no knowledge of it, and did not show any support for the killing after the event.

“I have not found any basis for stating that the demolition of terrorists’ homes achieves a real deterrent to terrorist acts, and perhaps the opposite,” Baron wrote.

The IDF argued that destroying both the third and second floors of Kabha’s home in Tura al-Gharbiya, a town in the Jenin governate, was necessary as a deterrent against future attacks by other terrorists.

Israel defends the practice of razing the family home of attackers as a deterrent against future assaults and officials have argued that speed is essential, claiming that the deterrent factor degrades over time. A number of Israeli defense officials have questioned the efficacy of the practice over the years and human rights activists have denounced it as unfair collective punishment.

Muhammad Mruh Kabha in prisoners’ garb (Shin Bet)

According to the Shin Bet security agency, Kabha is suspected of carrying out the terror attack as a form of vengeance for the death of a security prisoner, Kamel Abu Waer, who died of cancer six weeks before.

On December 20, Horgen, 52, a mother of six, went for a hike in the Reihan forest. Kabha, who had been waiting in the area for a victim to pass by, spotted her walking alone and “attacked and murdered her,” the security service has said.

Horgen’s body was found in the early hours of the next morning after her husband, Benjamin, reported her missing.

Horgen’s murder sparked weeks of ongoing tension in the West Bank. The Israeli security services reported multiple incidents of stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians in the days immediately following Horgen’s murder. A 16-year-old settler, Ahuvia Sandak, was killed in a car crash during a police chase after allegedly hurling rocks. Sandak’s death ignited days of near-nightly protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank, many of which turned violent.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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