The US government condemned Thursday the scheduled demolition of homes belonging to Palestinians who carried out terror attacks in Israel, with State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki contending that such a move amounted to collective punishment and would only heighten tensions in the region.
Psaki’s statement came hours after the Home Front Command issued an order to demolish the home of the Palestinian man who carried out a terrorist attack in central Jerusalem in August.
The terrorist, East Jerusalem resident Muhammed Naif El-Ja’abis, was shot dead by police shortly after running over and killing a pedestrian and ramming his stolen excavator into a bus. Following the excavator attack, security officials told Channel 2 news that Ja’abis may have been motivated to carry out the attack by revenge, after his cousin’s home was demolished by Israeli authorities a short while earlier.
In light of the surging violence in Jerusalem and across the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the full reinstatement of a policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinians who perpetrate terror attacks against Israelis, during an emergency cabinet meeting last week. The policy had rarely been implemented in the past ten years.
The prime minister’s directive came in response to a series of deadly hit-and-run terror attacks in Jerusalem in recent weeks that have killed six people and injured dozens of others.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat voiced his support for Netanyahu’s order and urged the government to use all legal measures necessary in order to deter potential attackers. Barkat said he supported the use of “very, very clear aggressive force against violence” and said “there is no other way, unfortunately,” hours after a 17-year-old was killed after an East Jerusalem Palestinian man rammed his van into a crowd last week.
Although Israel discontinued the practice of home demolitions nearly a decade ago, security forces have used the policy on a number of occasions, most recently when the IDF demolished the homes of Hussam Kawasme and Amer Abu Aysha, the Hamas operatives responsible for the abduction and murder of three Jewish teenagers in June.
Adiv Sterman and Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.