Israel razes home of suspected terrorist charged in October murder
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Israel razes home of suspected terrorist charged in October murder

Palestinian, from West Bank city of Qabatiya, allegedly stabbed Reuven Schmerling to death in his Kafr Qassem warehouse

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli troops demolish home of a Palestinian suspected of murdering an Israeli man in an October terror attack on December 1, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli troops demolish home of a Palestinian suspected of murdering an Israeli man in an October terror attack on December 1, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli forces on Friday demolished the West Bank home of a Palestinian man accused of murdering Jewish Israeli Reuven Schmerling in a nationalistically motivated terror attack in October, the army said.

During the demolition, residents of suspected terrorist Muhammad Ziad Abu al-Rub’s hometown of Qabatiya rolled burning tires at the troops. No soldiers were wounded, and the troops drove back protesters with less-lethal riot dispersal weapons, an army spokesperson said.

On October 29, Al-Rub, 19, and Youssef Khaled Mustafa Kamil, 20, both from the West Bank city of Qabatiya, were indicted on terror charges for the premeditated murder of Schmerling, a 69-year-old Israeli man who illegally employed them at his coal storage facility in Kafr Qassem.

Early Friday, the Israel Defense Forces, along with representatives from the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration, entered Qabatiya with heavy engineering equipment.

Israeli troops demolish home of a Palestinian suspected of murdering an Israeli man in an October terror attack on December 1, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Troops from the Givati Brigade provided protection as the engineering soldiers demolished al-Rub’s home.

Last month, his family was given notice that the house would be destroyed, in a contentious form of punishment employed by the IDF. No announcement has been made regarding Kamil’s home.

Critics say the measure is a form of collective punishment, though Israel defends the practice as a effective deterrent against future attacks.

Al-Rub and Kamil are suspected of stabbing and beating Schmerling to death at his coal storage unit in Kafr Qassem on October 4. They have not yet faced trial.

Reuven Schmerling, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Elkana, who was murdered – his body discovered in a storage facility in the Israeli Arab town of Kafr Qassem, October 4, 2017. (Courtesy)

According to the Shin Bet, the two Palestinians are believed to have been motivated to carry out the attack on Schmerling by the death in November 2015 of a friend, who was shot dead while trying to stab Israeli troops at a West Bank checkpoint.

In addition, Kamil and al-Rub had been “watching videos of violent clashes between Muslim women and Israeli security forces at the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” the state prosecutors said in the indictment.

The two men did not have work permits that allowed them to enter Israel, but nevertheless traveled to Kafr Qassem in late September in order to work at Schmerling’s coal storage facility illegally.

According to the indictment, Kamil entered Israel not only to work but also “to carry out a nationalistically motivated stabbing attack and kill Jews for being Jews.”

Kamil asked al-Rub to take part, but was initially rebuffed, but on October 2, he asked again and al-Rub agreed to carry out the attack.

Police at the scene where Reuven Schmerling from the settlement of Elkana was found dead at the industrial zone in Kafr Qassem, October 4, 2017. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

The next day, according to prosecutors, they bought a butcher’s knife. They chose Schmerling to be their victim due to work disputes and general antipathy toward him, according to the indictment.

Just before 10 a.m. on October 4, the day before the start of the Sukkot festival, Schmerling knocked on the door of a room in the storage facility where they lived. When the two men answered the door, he told them they were “only good for sleeping and eating” and asked Kamil to load a large battery into his car, according to the charge sheet.

When Kamil walked back into the storage facility, he allegedly conspired with al-Rub to carry out the stabbing attack and organized their escape route.

Half an hour later, they lured Schmerling into their room by telling him their refrigerator wasn’t working. As al-Rub spoke with him, Kamil allegedly took out the knife and began stabbing Schmerling in the back and then in the stomach.

Al-Rub, meanwhile, ran out and brought back a pickaxe, which he also allegedly used to attack Schmerling, the indictment said.

Mourners attend the funeral of Reuben Schmerling in the West Bank settlement of Elkana on October 6, 2017. (Dani Sitron)

They also beat him with a fan that was in the room, according to the charge sheet.

Schmerling, from the nearby Elkana settlement, fought back, hitting Kamil in the leg with a chair, but he was overpowered, the charge sheet said.

During the attack, Schmerling sustained wounds to the back, chest, stomach, head, arms and legs, according to the indictment.

His body was found later that day in one of the business’s storage units by his son, who alerted police and emergency services.

After the attack, Kamil and al-Rub showered and changed their clothes, ditched the weapons they’d allegedly used and traveled back to Qabatiya, according to the indictment.

In October, the IDF announced that it was preparing to raze the home of al-Rub.

The demolished home of a Palestinian suspected of murdering an Israeli man in an October terror attack on December 1, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

In October, Schmerling’s family thanked security forces and prosecutors for their “excellent work” in quickly bringing an indictment.

“We are confident and assured that the court will do justice and we hope with all our might our father will be the last Jew to be murdered for being Jewish,” the family said.

While thanking prosecutors and security forces, the head of the Elkana Regional Council called for more to be done to crack down on Palestinians illegally entering Israel.

“We expect the security forces to act with more determination so the entrance of illegal workers will end completely and the [West Bank] crossings will be closely monitored,” said Assaf Mintzer.

Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.

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