Israel to demolish Palestinian attacker's home 'as punishment'

Israel to demolish Palestinian attacker's home 'as punishment'
Israeli authorities say they will demolish the home of Khairy Alqam - a Palestinian man who killed seven Israelis in an attack in the settlement of Neve Yaakov.
4 min read
Israeli authorities destroy homes of Palestinians accused of killing Israelis as "a punishment" [Gett]

Israeli forces on Sunday prepared for the demolition of the East Jerusalem family home of a Palestinian man who killed seven people near a synagogue, as a means to punish his relatives.

The step comes as violence surged in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel, which has seen 35 Palestinians killed this month alone, sparking global outcry.

Israeli forces on Thursday raided a refugee camp in Jenin and killed nine Palestinians, including an elderly woman. In a separate incident, Israeli forces shot dead a 22-year-old man, Yousef Muheisen, in Al-Ram near east Jerusalem.

The killings in Jenin were one of the bloodiest for Palestinians in recent years.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due in Jerusalem on Monday to discuss steps for de-escalation, while Pope Francis on Sunday decried the "death spiral". Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged "maximum responsibility" in calls with his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts.

As another punishment, the Israeli government is planning to rescind the rights to social security benefits of attackers' relatives and has also considered easing access to guns for Israelis.

Netanyahu's far-right cabinet said the occupied East Jerusalem home of Khayri Alqam, 21 - who was shot dead by police following Friday's attack - "will be sealed immediately ahead of its demolition".

An AFP correspondent saw Israeli forces on the property after they shuttered its entrances, with its residents clearing out their belongings.

Alqam's mother was one of five people who remained in custody Sunday, police said, out of 42 suspects arrested after the shooting in the illegal settlement of Neve Yaakov.

Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of killing Israelis. However, the process requires prior notice to families and allows for an appeals process.

Moreover, Israeli authorities carry out the destruction of homes belonging to Palestinians under the pretext that the homes were built without a legal permit.

Dani Shenhar, a legal expert at Israeli rights group HaMoked, said sealing off Alqam's home overnight demonstrated the government's desire for "revenge against the families".

The measure was carried out "in complete disregard for the rule of law", he charged, adding that HaMoked would launch a protest with Israel's attorney general.

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Gun permits

The government went one step further on Sunday, announcing that the home of a 13-year-old boy, who shot two Israelis, would also be sealed off "even though his attack caused severe injury to its victims and not their deaths".

The boy was shot and detained after the attack in Silwan neighbourhood just outside East Jerusalem's walled Old City.

The punitive measures announced are in line with proposals from Netanyahu's extreme-right political partners, whose support enabled him to return to power in late December.

They are likely to apply primarily to Palestinians with Israeli nationality, and Palestinians with residency permits for illegally annexed East Jerusalem.

Revoking Israeli identity cards of the relatives of attackers was on the agenda Sunday at Netanyahu's weekly cabinet meeting.

The government also plans to make it easier for Israeli citizens to obtain permits to carry firearms.

"When civilians have guns, they can defend themselves," extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said Saturday outside a Jerusalem hospital.

Since the start of the year, Israeli forces have killed 34 Palestinian adults and children - most of whom were civilians.

The Palestinian Authority said it holds Israel accountable for the violence that has escalated in recent days, accusing them of violating international law and not committing to peace efforts. 

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'Death spiral'we

Speaking at the Vatican on Sunday, Pope Francis said "the death spiral that increases day by day only closes the few glimmers of trust that exist between the two peoples".

The bloodshed is expected to top the agenda when Blinken meets Netanyahu, before travelling to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The surge in violence has been followed by a wave of arson and vandalism.

A Palestinian home and vehicle in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya were torched overnight. An Israeli security official told AFP Israeli extremists were the suspected perpetrators.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa said 120 cars were hit by stones thrown by settlers, and 22 shops were attacked in the Nablus area on Saturday night.

Outside the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Kedumim, guards killed a Palestinian man who the army alleged had a handgun.

The Palestinian health ministry identified him on Sunday as 18-year-old Karam Ali Ahmad Salman.

Israeli authorities often claim that Palestinians killed were armed with a weapon or perpetrating, however, such allegations are often disputed or later proven false.

The latest bloodshed follows a surge in killings last year, which the UN said was the deadliest for Palestinians since at least 2005.