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Israeli Supreme Court rules against demolishing homes of Abu Khdeir's killers

July 4, 2017 6:13 P.M. (Updated: July 5, 2017 10:04 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- On the same day that four Palestinian families were delivered punitive home demolition orders after their relatives carried out attacks on Israelis, the Israeli Supreme Court decided on Tuesday not to demolish the homes of three Israelis convicted of brutally killing 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir in 2014.

The Abu Khdeir family had presented a petition to the Israeli courts demanding that Yosef Haim Ben-David and two minors, who were convicted of kidnapping and burning the Palestinian teenager alive three years ago, have their homes demolished, in line with an official Israeli policy carried out overwhelmingly against Palestinians who have killed Israelis.

However, according to Israeli news outlet Ynet, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the petition, with retired Israeli judge Elyakim Rubinstein ruling that too much time had passed between the “abominable act of murder” and the submission of the petition.

At the same time, he reportedly emphasized that “Regulation 119” in Israeli law permitted the demolition of homes of anyone suspected of “terror activity” and of their “accomplices and supporters,” whether they are Jewish Israelis or Palestinian, Ynet reported.

“We can understand how the victim's family feels... we are dealing with a deterrent and not a punitive measure. It should be remembered that the perpetrators were given lengthy prison sentences," Judge Neal Hendel added, reiterating the Israeli government's contentious claims that such punitive demolitions deter "terrorists" from carrying out attacks.

Ben-David, the ringleader of the kidnapping and murder, received a life sentence for the murder, and 20 additional years for other crimes he had committed. He was also ordered to pay 150,000 shekels ($42,650) to Abu Khdeir’s family.

Two Israeli minors who assisted in killing Muhammad were convicted of murder in February, one receiving a life sentence and the other 21 years in prison.

Muhammad, a 16-year-old from the Shufat neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, was kidnapped and murdered by the three extremists in July 2014.

All three confessed to beating the teenager unconscious before pouring flammable liquid on him and setting him alight. An autopsy later confirmed the teen had been burned alive.

Mohammad’s father slammed the Israeli justice system for failing to uphold justice for Palestinians.

Last year, following the sentencing of the two minors, Muhammad’s father Hussein had said "Israeli courts have two faces of judiciary: one for the Palestinians and another for the Israelis.”

"If a Palestinian child throws a stone, he is sentenced to years in prison, but when an Israeli settler burns and kills a Palestinian child, he is sentenced to 21 years."

Despite the judges’ justifications for rejecting the petition, the family homes of actual or alleged Palestinian attackers are almost always demolished soon after the attack has been carried out, with the Israeli army at times announcing demolition plans almost immediately following an attack.

On Tuesday, four Palestinian homes were delivered demolition orders for their relatives having allegedly carried out attacks on Israelis.

The families of three Palestinians from the village of Deir Abu Mashaal in the Ramallah district of the central occupied West Bank, who were shot dead last month after allegedly carrying out a deadly attack in East Jerusalem, were not surprised when Israeli forces raided the village to hand them demolition orders.

Immediately following the June 16 attack, Israeli authorities took measurements of the homes of the alleged assailants -- Baraa Ibrahim Saleh, 18, Adel Hassan Ahmad Ankoush, 18, and Usama Ahmad Ata, 19 -- in preparations for punitive demolitions and informed the families their homes would be demolished "soon."

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a total of 22 people, the three mens’ family members, will be left homeless by the demolitions.

Meanwhile, during a military raid in the town of Silwad, also in the Ramallah district, Israeli soldiers delivered a demolition order to the family of Malik Ahmad Hamid, who was shot, injured, and detained after carrying out an alleged car-ramming attack on April 6 at a junction near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ofra that killed an Israeli soldier.

The families were given a little over two days to appeal the decisions in Israeli courts, which almost always rule in favor of carrying out the punitive demolitions against Palestinian families.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fast-tracked punitive home demolitions in an effort to “deter” attacks carried out by Palestinian individuals since the beginning of a wave of violence across the occupied Palestinian territory in late 2015.

The move came despite past recommendations by an Israeli military committee that the practice did not deter attacks.

B’Tselem has condemned the practice of punitive home demolitions and work permit confiscations as "court-sanctioned revenge" carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment.
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