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High Court okays razing homes of Jaffa Gate stabbers

Justices reject appeal by families of 2 Palestinian terrorists who perpetrated fatal attack, dismiss claims practice is discriminatory

Rescue and medical personnel carrying a wounded man at the scene of a stabbing attack at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on December 23, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Rescue and medical personnel carrying a wounded man at the scene of a stabbing attack at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on December 23, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday approved the demolition of the family homes of two Palestinian terrorists who carried out a deadly attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem in December 2015.

Anan Abu Habsah and Issa Assaf, both 21 and from the West Bank refugee camp of Qalandiya, stabbed Rabbi Reuben Birmajer near Jaffa Gate last year. Birmajer later died of his wounds. A second Israeli fatality, Ofer Ben Ari, 46, was mistakenly shot by police fire during the ensuing chaos and later succumbed to his injuries.

Habsah and Assaf were shot dead by policewomen at the scene.

According to Israel Radio, the justices in Tuesday’s hearing rejected an appeal by the families of Habsah and Assaf, who argued their relatives’ deaths while carrying out the attack was punishment enough for the crime.

The High Court also rejected claims that Israel’s practice of home demolitions discriminates between Arab and Jewish terrorists.

File: Anan Abu Habsah and Issa Assaf, both 21, from Qalandiya, named as the terrorists who killed two Israelis near Jaffa Gate on December 23, 2015 (Courtesy)
Anan Abu Habsah and Issa Assaf, both 21, from Qalandiya, named as the terrorists who killed two Israelis near Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem on December 23, 2015 (Courtesy)

The justices ordered the demolitions be carried out within five days, so that the families “would have time to organize themselves,” Israel Radio reported.

The practice of demolishing the family homes of terrorists has been criticized by local and foreign nongovernmental rights groups, but Israeli officials have defended the measure as a deterrent against future attacks.

Critics claim that, in addition to being a form of collective punishment, house demolitions could motivate family members of terrorists to carry out attacks themselves.

Ofer Ben-Ari (Courtesy)
Ofer Ben-Ari (Courtesy)

The Old City of Jerusalem has seen multiple stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces in the recent upsurge in violence, though most have been around the Damascus Gate, the main entrance to the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

President Reuven Rivlin visits the family of Rabbi Reuven Birmacher, who was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem last week, on December 27, 2015. (Mark Neyman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin visits the family of Rabbi Reuven Birmajer, who was murdered in a terror attack in Jerusalem last week, on December 27, 2015. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

Since the now-dwindling wave of violence broke out last October, some 33 Israelis have been killed in stabbing, shooting, and car-ramming attacks.

More than 200 Palestinians have also died during that time, most while carrying out attacks or attempted attacks on Israeli civilians and security forces, Israel says.

The past three months have seen a marked drop in the number of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank. The last multi-casualty event took place last Wednesday when two Palestinian gunmen opened fire in a Tel Aviv cafe, killing four people.

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