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High Court freezes move to raze terrorists’ homes

Demolition orders stayed while court deliberates petitions from families of perpetrators, including killers of Henkin couple

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

A relative of Abdelrahman Shaludi, a Palestinian who killed two Israelis with his car last month, walks inside his family home after it was razed by Israeli authorities in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, November 19, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
A relative of Abdelrahman Shaludi, a Palestinian who killed two Israelis with his car last month, walks inside his family home after it was razed by Israeli authorities in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, November 19, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Israel’s High Court of Justice stayed on Thursday the planned demolition of a number of homes belonging to the families of Palestinians accused of carrying out terror attacks, including the October shooting in which Eitam and Naama Henkin were killed.

The temporary injunction was issued by Supreme Court Justice Uzi Vogelman in response to petitions by the families of six terrorists whose homes were slated to be destroyed, hours before the demolition orders were to be carried out. The families were informed last Wednesday that their homes would be demolished “in the coming days.”

Thursday’s decision does not cancel the demolition orders, but will rather allow the court to debate the petitions before handing down a final ruling.

The homes in question are those of the killers of Danny Gonen and Malachi Rosenfeld, killed in separate West Bank drive-by shooting attacks this year, as well those belonging to the families of three Hamas members accused of killing Eitam and Naama Henkin.

The Henkin couple were shot to death as they were traveling in their car near the West Bank settlement of Itamar on October 1. Their four small children – the oldest is 9 years old – were in the backseat and witnessed their murder but were uninjured.

Eitam Henkin and Naama Henkin of Neria, who were murdered in a drive-by terror attack near Nablus on Thursday, October 1, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Eitam Henkin and Naama Henkin of Neria, who were murdered in a drive-by terror attack near Nablus on Thursday, October 1, 2015. (screen capture: Channel 2)

The demolition notices came two days after ministers approved a package of proposals aimed at stamping out a recent wave of terror attacks, including expedited home demolitions as a punitive measure against the families of attackers.

The injunction was met with harsh rebuke from Israeli politicians on the right, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called on the court to quickly reverse its decision.

“Our problem is the disconnect between the action and the result. Therefore, we are explicitly asking to shorten the gap, and I also hope the High Court will decide as quickly as possible — and in general they do decide to demolish. It’s preferable to do this close to the act and within a few days,” he said.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, of Netanyahu’s Likud party, accused the court of “breaking its record of absurdity.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who chairs the right-wing Jewish Home party, said the decision was not appropriate during “a time of war.”

“The High Court needs to understand that any delay in the demolition of these houses harms Israeli’s deterrence and endangers people’s lives. The court must come to its senses and make a decision immediately,” he said.

Despite the delay, the court is not expected to cancel the demolition orders altogether.

Israeli soldiers dismantling the home of Maher al-Hashlamoun in Hebron on October 20,2015. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)
Israeli soldiers dismantling the home of Maher al-Hashlamoun in Hebron on October 20,2015. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)

On Monday the army razed the Hebron home of a Palestinian terrorist who ran over and stabbed to death Israeli civilian Dalia Lemkus during a wave of violence nearly a year ago. The demolition came after the Supreme Court rejected a petition against the move from the family.

Referring to the issue of home demolitions, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said during Wednesday’s cabinet meeting that “whoever feels mercy for the cruel is bound to eventually be cruel to the merciful. We must inflict upon terrorists and their families critical economic harm. Every terrorist should know before they hurt a Jew that his family will also be hurt. We must create a balance of deterrence against terrorists in the economic aspect as well.”

The practice of demolishing terrorists’ families’ homes has been criticized by outside groups, but government officials have defended its use as a deterrent against attacks. Critics claim that in addition to being a form collective punishment, house demolitions could motivate family members of terrorists to launch attacks themselves.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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