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Israeli forces raid homes belonging to family of Jerusalem gunman, take measurements

Oct. 10, 2016 1:46 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 11, 2016 12:51 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces raided on Sunday two homes in the occupied West Bank villages of al-Ram and Kafr Aqab belonging to the family of Misbah Abu Sbeih, a Palestinian who was killed a day earlier while carrying out a deadly shooting attack in occupied East Jerusalem, taking measurements for the structures in an apparent move to punitively demolish them.

Misbah Abu Sbeih, 39, killed an Israeli police officer and an Israeli woman, and injured at least five other people during a drive-by shooting attack in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday morning. He was then shot and killed by Israeli police on the scene.

Hamas claimed on Sunday afternoon that Abu Sbeih was a member of its Islamic resistance movement.

Members of Abu Sbeih's family told Ma'an that large numbers of Israeli troops raided a building in al-Ram where Abu Sbeih had been residing, and another in Kafr Aqab owned by Abu Sbeih and his brother Jabir in the early hours on Sunday.

The relatives said that army engineers took indoor and outdoor measurement of the houses, "using laser techniques and digging holes in the walls."

They added that Israeli soldiers removed posters, flags, and photographs of Abu Sbeih which had been hung on the walls in al-Ram, and interrogated youth in the area regarding who had printed the images and where.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces followed orders to “assess residences” in the two villages, adding that one soldier was injured by a pipe bomb during one of the raids.

Meanwhile, Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri confirmed that the possible demolition of the residence belonging to Abu Sbeih’s family fell under the jurisdiction of the army in conjunction with Israeli intelligence.

However, she said that Israeli police did send the army an official request to carry out operations in al-Ram “to try and prevent any aspect of support for the terrorist attack.”

Al-Samri added that Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan had instructed police to carry out “all possible legal procedures against all activities and aspects which imply or show support” for Abu Sbeih.

Israel has dramatically increased their policy of punitive home demolitions over the past year in an effort to “deter” attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals, despite past recommendations by an Israeli military committee that the practice did not deter attacks. Israeli rights group B’Tselem has condemned the practice as "court-sanctioned revenge" carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment.

Meanwhile, during the raid Israeli police detained Palestinians who demanded that shops be closed in East Jerusalem in mourning, as well as several Palestinians who captured video footage of the shooting attack and shouted “God is Great.”

She added that police had prevented the installation of a tent traditionally intended to host mourners in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, Abu Sbeih’s hometown.

Abu Sbeih, a resident of Silwan, relocated to al-Ram recently after Israeli authorities banned him from East Jerusalem for a month on Oct. 2. He had previously been banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque for six months, and in July, he was also issued a travel ban until the end of the year.

Israeli forces detained Abu Sbeih’s 17-year-old daughter Eiman early on Monday, as well as his father and two of his brothers. His two sons Izz al-Din and Sbeih, were also summoned for interrogation.

The shooting attack came a day after Abu Sbeih told Ma'an that he intended to turn himself in to serve a prison sentence over charges that he assaulted an Israeli police officer in 2013.

Abu Sbeih had said Saturday that his alleged decision to turn himself in came after being repeatedly harassed by Israeli police, as he was detained five times over the past two weeks, in some cases for a period of days, sometimes for hours.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz cited Palestinian sources as saying Abu Sbeih was a member of the Murabitun, a Palestinian Muslim group active at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound who demonstrate against what they see as increasing Israeli control over the holy site.

The Murabitun was banned by Israeli authorities in September 2015 for its alleged role in inciting violence and tension in the Al-Aqsa compound.

However, the group has claimed they are defending the mosque from Israeli extremists, who regularly enter the compound protected by armed guards, and incite against Palestinians.

Tensions around occupied East Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound were a main contributor to a wave of unrest that began last October, after right-wing Israelis made frequent visits to the site during the Jewish holiday season this time last year.

According to Ma'an documentation, the 39-year-old gunman was the 232nd Palestinian to be killed by Israelis amid the violence, while 34 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians.

The violence has mostly been characterized by small-scale attacks with knives or similar weapons, however, a number of attempted and actual shooting attacks have targeted Israelis over the past year.

A total of 17 Palestinians have been killed while committing shooting attacks, while 16 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian gunmen during that time period.
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