JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday sought the demolition of the houses of two Palestinians behind recent deadly attacks against Israelis after the attorney-general said the move was legally viable.
Israel wants to raze the homes of a Palestinian who killed three Israelis in a bulldozer rampage in Jerusalem on Wednesday and another who shot dead eight pupils at a seminary in the city in March. Both lived in the vicinity of Arab East Jerusalem.
“Barak has ordered the army to start a process for obtaining demolition orders for the terrorists’ houses,” said a Defense official, who declined to be named.
Menachem Mazuz, the attorney-general, gave his legal response following a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday that Israel should destroy the homes of “every terrorist from Jerusalem” after a Palestinian killed three Israelis in a bulldozer rampage.
“The decision comes following the attorney-general’s opinion, which said there was no legal obstacle to destroy the terrorists’ houses,” the Defense official added.
Mazuz said in his opinion: “In light of repeated rulings over the years by the Supreme Court, it cannot be said that there is a legal objection … to demolish houses in Jerusalem, but the move would create considerable legal difficulties.”
Israeli authorities say Wednesday’s attack and the fatal shootings of eight seminary students in March were carried out by Palestinians who held blue Israeli identity cards that give them wide freedom of movement.
Mazuz warned that apart from legal challenges in Israeli courts, a resumption of the practice of house demolitions could draw international condemnation.
“The detailed inspection of the circumstances surrounding each case should be conducted by the Shin Bet and the army in coordination with the Justice Ministry,” Mazuz said.
Olmert told an economic conference in the southern resort city of Eilat on Thursday that Israel should “be tougher in some of the means we use against perpetrators of terror. If we have to destroy houses, then we must do so.”
Israel abandoned the demolitions of homes of Palestinians involved in attacks against its citizens after human rights groups challenged the practice in Israel’s Supreme Court.
Defense and legal officials met on Thursday to discuss the issue. Some 20 people live in the home of the attacker who killed two women and a man in Wednesday’s bulldozer rampage. They said they had no prior knowledge of his intentions.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized internationally, after capturing the area in a 1967 war, and gave Palestinians there and in some adjacent villages the same blue identity cards issued to its citizens.
Palestinians want parts of Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.