The Israeli military made preparations early Wednesday morning for the demolition of the homes of two Palestinian gunmen affiliated with the Hamas terror group who carried out a deadly attack at a gas station in the West Bank a day earlier.
On Tuesday afternoon, Muhannad Faleh Shehadeh, 24, and Khaled Mustafa Sabah, 25, opened fire at diners at a hummus restaurant and at motorists at an adjacent gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, killing four Israelis and wounding four others.
The four slain victims were named as Harel Masood, 21, from the central town of Yad Binyamin, Elisha Anteman, 17, from Eli, and Ofer Fayerman, 64, also from Eli, and Shmuel Mordoff, 17, from the Ahiya settlement.
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.
In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said troops operated in the terrorists’ hometown of Urif, a village in the Nablus area, overnight.
The IDF said troops measured the homes of Shehadeh and Sabah, the first step before a potential demolition.
Troops also arrested four wanted Palestinians, questioned several other suspects, and searched buildings in the village, the IDF said.
A lathe for manufacturing illegal weapons was also found in the village, and it was destroyed by IDF forces in a controlled blast, the military added.
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.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered the military’s liaison to the Palestinians, known as COGAT, to revoke the entry permits to Israel of dozens of relatives of Shehadeh and Sabah. There was no immediate comment from COGAT confirming it had carried out the move.
Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, head of COGAT, has previously said the policy is intended to dissuade Palestinians from planning terror attacks, as doing so will harm their extended family’s livelihood. Critics have called it collective punishment.
Previously, only immediate family members would have their entry and work permits to Israel revoked, following background checks that would determine they have ties to terrorists.
Footage released late Tuesday showed the moment Sabah was shot dead by Shin Bet security agency officers and members of the elite Yamam counterterrorism police unit in the northern West Bank town of Tubas.
In the surveillance camera video, Israeli special forces could be seen getting out of a minivan and opening fire on a vehicle that Sabah had entered after abandoning the stolen car.
فيديو يوثق لحظة اغتيال الشهيد خالد صباح في طوباس، بعد مطاردته لساعات عقب مشاركته بتنفيذ عملية "عيلي".
يحدث هذا -بكل أريحية- في عمق المناطق الفلسطينية التي تسيطر عليها أمنياً سلطة عباس بالتنسيق التام مع قوات الإحتلال الصهيوني. pic.twitter.com/As4yw5dPqF
— أحمد أبوعبيدة #غزة (@ahmadsqps) June 20, 2023
Hamas claimed Shehadeh and Sabah as members but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attack.
Images circulating online on Wednesday showed the two terrorists wearing its paraphernalia.
According to the Ynet news site, the pair served short jail sentences in the Hamas wing of Israel’s Megiddo prison in 2020.
Shehadeh was sentenced to two months for hurling stones, and Sabah was sentenced to four months for participating in rioting and manufacturing explosive devices, the report said.
In a separate incident on Wednesday morning, Palestinian gunmen opened fire at a military post near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, the IDF said.
Troops returned fire and launched scans of the area, the IDF said, adding that no soldiers were hurt.