Military to permanently seal home of 13-year-old shooter who wounded 2 in Jerusalem

Move to close off apartment of Muhammad Aliwat’s family in Silwan is unusual, as such operations are usually reserved for Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly attacks

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

An Israeli policeman secures a shooting attack site near Jerusalem's Old City, on January 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)
An Israeli policeman secures a shooting attack site near Jerusalem's Old City, on January 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

In an unusual move, the Israel Defense Forces said Saturday it would permanently seal the home of a Palestinian teenager who shot and seriously wounded an off-duty officer and his father in Jerusalem last month.

On January 28, 13-year-old Muhammad Aliwat from Silwan opened fire at a group of Israelis on Ma’alot Ir David Street, just outside the Old City.

One of the victims, an off-duty IDF officer in the Paratroopers Brigade, managed to shoot and hit the attacker despite his wounds. Aliwat was wounded and arrested.

The officer remains hospitalized in serious condition. His father was also seriously hurt in the terror attack, but has since been released from medical care.

Aliwat’s family was notified on Saturday of the military’s intention to permanently seal their apartment.

As a matter of policy, Israel regularly demolishes or permanently seals the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks, but has not done so for those who only wounded their victims.

Sealing the homes of attackers is often a replacement or stopgap for demolishing them, often when it is not permissible to demolish them, such as in the case of a single apartment in a building. Sealing the homes of attackers usually involves pouring concrete into a room or whole apartment. The move is not easily reversed, similar to demolitions.

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

Aliwat’s family can still appeal the decision to Israel’s High Court of Justice.

Such attempts rarely succeed, though in some cases the court can limit the demolition or sealing order to only the parts of the house used by the terrorist.

However, in this case, the High Court may deny the military sealing the home, as the terrorist did not kill any of his victims.

View of the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, August 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

The government has moved forward with temporarily sealing the home of another attacker who carried out a deadly attack, by welding the doors and windows shut, ahead of a full demolition. If the court accepts the family’s appeals, the sealing is reversible.

The government also voted in favor of temporarily sealing off Aliwat’s home, but never moved forward with it.

Police said Aliwat carried out the attack alone. In surveillance video from the scene, he can be seen waiting behind some parked cars before opening fire toward a group of people.

The attack came hours after seven people were killed and three more were hurt in another shooting attack in the Neve Yaakov neighborhood.

The January shooting — the deadliest Palestinian terror attack since 2008 — came as tensions were high in the region.

The IDF has pressed on with an anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of attacks that left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022, and another 10 since the beginning of the year.

Three Israelis, including two brothers aged six and eight, were killed in a car-ramming attack Friday. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he instructed police to prepare for a major operation in East Jerusalem starting Sunday following the attack.

The IDF’s operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. It also left 171 Palestinians dead in 2022, and another 43 since the beginning of the year, many of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.

There has also been a rise in revenge attacks by Israelis against Palestinians following the two terror attacks.

Also Saturday night, a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip at southern Israel. The projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, the military said.

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