Shin Bet endorses unsealing terrorist’s family’s home; Ben Gvir orders police not to
Security agency: Hussein Qaraqa’s relatives were unaware he planned to carry out deadly Jerusalem ramming; far-right minister: Shin Bet can unseal home itself if it wants to
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said on Sunday he had ordered police to ignore the recommendation of the Shin Bet security agency to unseal the home belonging to the parents of a Palestinian terrorist who carried out a ramming attack in Jerusalem earlier this month.
The family home of Hussein Qaraqa, who plowed his car into a group of people in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood on February 10, killing three, was welded shut days after the attack.
Qaraqa, who was shot dead at the scene of the attack, was a resident of Issawiya in East Jerusalem. However, due to his apartment being a rental, police sealed his parents’ home in A-Tur, also in East Jerusalem.
The Shin Bet said in its recommendation that Qaraqa was apparently mentally ill; he had been released from a psychiatric hospital in northern Israel only days before the attack.
Additionally, the agency said Qaraqa’s family was unaware of his intentions to carry out the attack, meaning there was no justification to punish his family.
But Ben-Gvir claimed Qaraqa’s family had “received his will before he carried out the attack, and they knew about his intentions and therefore should be punished.”
“Ben Gvir, who opposed the move [to unseal the home], ordered the police not to carry out the Shin Bet’s request,” the National Security Ministry said.
Ben Gvir said if the Shin Bet and the military’s Home Front Command — which is the relevant IDF authority to carry out home demolitions or sealing within Israeli territory, including East Jerusalem — want to unseal the home, “they should do so themselves.”
As a matter of policy, Israel regularly demolishes or permanently seals the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks.
When sealing a property, police weld the doors and windows shut ahead of a potential full demolition. In rare cases where the High Court accepts the family’s appeals, the sealing can be reversed.
Police welded shut the home of the parents of the terrorist who rammed and killed 3 Israelis in Jerusalem on Friday. Hussein Qarqa lived in a rented apartment so Israel can't demolish it, and this move is reversible if High Court denies full demolition (which is likely). pic.twitter.com/cRtQcFm6Ta
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) February 12, 2023
The policy is controversial within the Israeli security establishment, and human rights activists have denounced it as unfair collective punishment. Israeli law does not require attackers to have been convicted before their homes are demolished.
Footage from the February 10 attack showed Qaraqa accelerating into a group of Israelis waiting at a bus stop.
Yaakov Yisrael Paley, 6, his brother Asher Menahem Paley, 8, and Alter Shlomo Lederman, a 20-year-old yeshiva student who had gotten married two months ago, were killed in the attack.
Qaraqa’s Facebook page included posts hailing attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. In a post last August, Qaraqa hailed the leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nakhaleh.
In a more recent post last December, Qaraqa memorialized the members of the Nablus-based Lion’s Den after several were killed in an IDF operation. Lion’s Den has been responsible for numerous shooting attacks in the northern West Bank in recent months.
Qaraqa also published many posts glorifying attacks and wrote, “Glory to the pure souls” in reference to attackers.
Shortly after the attack, Ben Gvir released a statement saying he’d told police to gear up for a major anti-terror crackdown in East Jerusalem, specifically mentioning a massive 2002 military campaign against West Bank terror groups. However, Ben Gvir lacks the authority to approve such an operation on his own and his comments were dismissed by a senior government official.
The minister, of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, ran on campaign promises of cracking down on Palestinian attacks and Arab Israeli crime. He has faced criticism from the hard right after several deadly terror attacks in recent weeks, with detractors saying he has so far failed to deliver on his vows to crush terror.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.