The army has been ordered by Ehud Barak (photo), Israeli defence minister, to prepare to demolish the home of the Palestinian who killed three Israelis in Jerusalem.
Before the order was given, Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz said that though it would not be illegal, the proposed demolition could create legal difficulties.
B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, says it has written to Mr Mazuz, asking him to prevent the demolition of the attacker’s home. The group said that such a move would be a collective punishment, making it illegal under international humanitarian law.
Hussam Dwayat, 30, went on the rampage at the wheel of a front-loader vehicle, or bulldozer, killing three people and wounding dozens before security personnel shot him dead.
On Thursday, Ehud Olmert, Israeli prime minister, said that Israel should destroy the homes of “every terrorist from Jerusalem”.
“In light of repeated rulings over the years by the Supreme Court, it cannot be said that there is a legal objection… to the demolition of houses in Jerusalem, but the move would create considerable legal difficulties”, said Mr Mazuz said in his legal opinion.
He warned that, apart from legal challenges in Israeli courts, international condemnation could be drawn by a resumption of the practice of house demolitions.
No prior knowledge
As a consequence, the Attorney-General called for a detailed consideration of the circumstances surrounding each case, by the internal security service, Shin Bet, the army and the justice ministry.
The demolitions of Palestinians’ homes, involved in attacks against its citizens, have been abandoned by Israel in February 2005, after its been challenged in Israel’s Supreme Court by human rights groups.
Twenty people live in the home of the attacker, in the Sur Bahir area of East Jerusalem, and all insist that they had no prior knowledge of Hussam Dwayat’s intentions.
He acted alone, without being connected to any Palestinian militant group, said the Israeli authorities.
“The declared objective of this policy is to harm innocent persons – relatives of suspected perpetrators, who are not accused of any criminal wrongdoing themselves” said rights group B’Tselem in a statement, about the anticipated demolition.
“The demolition of houses is a clear case of collective punishment, which violates the principle that a person is not to be punished for the acts of another. Collective punishment is therefore illegal regardless of its effectiveness.”
The group also pointed to the findings of a committee appointed by Moshe Yaalon, a former chief of staff, as finding house demolitions did more harm than good to Israel’s security.