IDF blows up homes of Jaffa Gate stabbers, sparking riots
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IDF blows up homes of Jaffa Gate stabbers, sparking riots

Houses belonging to families of two men responsible for Jerusalem attack that left rabbi and father dead destroyed in Qalandiya; at least 4 Palestinians injured in clashes

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Israeli forces demolished the West Bank homes of two Palestinian terrorists who carried out a deadly stabbing attack last year, the army said Monday morning.

The IDF together with Border Police units destroyed the homes of Issa Assaf and Anan Habsah in the Qalandiya refugee camp outside Jerusalem, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement, with the move sparking clashes between Palestinians and IDF troops.

Video released by the IDF showed the army blowing up at least one home with controlled explosives, marking a departure from the usual method of using a bulldozer to pull down walls.

The razings, the latest in a series of home demolitions meant as a preventative measure against future terror attacks, came as Israel has reeled in recent days from an uptick in terror, including two attacks last week that left a 13-year-old girl and a yeshiva head and father of 10 dead.

During the demolition, shots were fired at troops and rioters threw stones and building blocks at forces operating in the restive refugee camp.

Palestinian sources said four Palestinian “youths” were injured.

Ramallah hospital director Ahmad Bitawi said one of the youths was seriously wounded.

However the IDF said six Palestinians were hurt in the clashes.

An improvised incendiary device seized by IDF forces during a house demolition operation in the West Bank village of Qalandiya, July 4, 2016. (IDF spokesperson)
An improvised incendiary device seized by IDF forces during a house demolition operation in the West Bank village of Qalandiya, July 4, 2016. (IDF spokesperson)

“Security forces responded with crowd dispersal methods as well as live fire, injuring six Palestinians,” the IDF said.

The army did not say if any soldiers were injured.

IDF soldiers seized an M-16 rifle, two pipe bombs and a number of improvised incendiary devices, the army said.

On December 23, Habsah and Assaf, stabbed to death Rabbi Reuven Biermacher, a father of seven and member of the faculty at the Aish Hatorah yeshiva, as he left Jerusalem’s Old City via the Jaffa Gate.

Also killed in the terror attack was Ofer Ben-Ari, 46, a father of two girls, who died after being mistakenly shot by police amid the chaos of the attack.

Another person stabbed in the attack was hospitalized with serious injuries.

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)
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)

Habsah and Assaf were shot dead by policewomen at the scene. One of them was killed immediately and the other later succumbed to his wounds, police and paramedics said at the time.

Last month the High Court of Justice 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.

Reuven Biermacher. (Courtesy)
Reuven Biermacher. (Courtesy)

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

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

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 constituting a key deterrent.

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.

Times of Israel staff and AP contributed to this report.

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