IDF prepares to demolish homes of 3 Palestinians charged in June terror attack

Troops map buildings in West Bank village of Urif for potential demolition; trio helped ‘plan and execute’ shooting at Eli gas station that killed 4 Israelis

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Israeli troops measure the home of a Palestinian charged with aiding Hamas terrorists in carrying out a deadly shooting attack, in the West Bank village of Urif, September 19, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: Israeli troops measure the home of a terrorist in the West Bank village Rummanah, August 6, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli troops early Tuesday morning prepared to demolish the homes of three Palestinians who have been charged with helping Hamas terrorists kill four Israeli civilians in a shooting attack in June.

Forces measured four homes belonging to the three suspects in the West Bank village of Urif, to prepare for the building’s possible demolition, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The suspects — Bassel Shehadeh, Hamed Sabah, and a third unnamed Palestinian — who were indicted in August, were “partners in the planning and execution of the shooting attack,” the IDF said Tuesday.

The trio were charged by military prosecutors with intentionally causing death — the West Bank military court’s equivalent of murder — and several other security offenses.

As a matter of policy, Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as well as their accomplices. The efficacy of the policy has been hotly debated even within the Israeli security establishment, while human rights activists denounce the practice as unjust collective punishment.

The demolition process generally takes several months, as the home needs to be mapped out, the High Court must address potential appeals by the family, and security forces often wait for an optimal time to enter Palestinian cities or neighborhoods for the operation.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a deadly shooting attack near the Jewish Settlement of Eli, West Bank, June 20, 2023. (Flash90)

In the June 20 attack, Hamas terrorists Muhannad Faleh Shehadeh and Khaled Mustafa Sabah opened fire at civilians at a gas station and adjacent hummus restaurant near the settlement of Eli.

Shehadeh was shot dead at the scene by an armed civilian, while Sabah fled in a car stolen from the gas station, and was killed some two hours later by special forces.

The Hamas terror group, based in the Gaza Strip, later took responsibility for the attack.

The two shooters — as well as the accomplices — are from Urif, which is in the northern part of the West Bank, near Nablus.

There are outstanding demolition orders against the gunmen’s homes.

Hamas terrorists Muhannad Faleh Shehadeh (right) and Khaled Mustafa Sabah (left), who carried out a deadly attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, June 20, 2023. (Social media)

According to an indictment filed in August, Bassel Shehadeh and Hamed Sabah allegedly supplied the weapons to the Hamas gunmen who carried out the attack, and themselves planned an additional attack. The third Palestinian who was not named, and charged separately, was also accused of being involved in the planning of the Eli attack.

Bassel Shehadeh and Hamed Sabah were accused of practicing shooting several times over the course of several months, and being in contact with terror elements in the Gaza Strip in order to finance their activities and to improve the planning of the attack.

The pair allegedly supplied firearms and ammunition to the two Hamas terrorists who carried out the Eli shooting and coordinated the attack plans with them, the indictment said.

Bassel Shehadeh and Hamed Sabah were arrested by Israeli forces on June 21, before they managed to execute an additional attack, the military said at the time.

The four victims were Harel Masood, 21, from the central town of Yad Binyamin, Elisha Anteman, 17, from Eli, Ofer Fayerman, 64, also from Eli, and Shmuel Mordoff, 17, from the Ahiya settlement.

(Left to right) Harel Masood, 21, of Yad Binyamin, Elisha Anteman, 17, of Eli, Ofer Fayerman, 64, of Eli, and Nachman Mordoff, 17, of Ahiya, who were killed in a shooting attack by Palestinian terrorists near the West Bank settlement of Eli on June 20, 2023. (Courtesy)

After the attack, hundreds of settlers rampaged through Palestinian towns and villages for five days, setting fire to homes and cars, and even opening fire in some cases. One Palestinian was killed in unclear circumstances.

Two Israelis were charged with terror offenses after the rioting.

Violence has surged across the region over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops in the West Bank, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the beginning of the year have left 27 civilians and three soldiers dead, and several others seriously wounded.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 181 West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians have been killed during the same period — the majority during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances, including by armed Israeli settlers.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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