RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Israeli security forces on Tuesday demolished the West Bank home of a Palestinian man accused of carrying out a deadly shooting attack earlier this year, the military said, the latest incursion to fuel tensions in the occupied territory.
Israel’s decades-old tactic of leveling the family homes of alleged Palestinian assailants has drawn intense criticism from human rights groups, which call it collective punishment — prohibited under international law.
Opponents of the policy also raise questions about its efficacy, arguing that leveling the residences of often uninvolved parents, spouses and children of alleged assailants and leaving them homeless only fuels an unrelenting cycle of hatred and bloodshed.
Israel defends such home demolitions as a deterrent meant to prevent future attacks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, which has taken a hard line against the Palestinians, has vowed to ramp up home demolitions of Palestinian attackers as violence spirals in the West Bank.
The Israeli military said its forces entered the Askar refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Nablus early Tuesday and demolished the apartment of 49-year-old Abdul Fattah Kharushah, an alleged member of the Hamas militant group who was suspected of shooting and killing two Israeli brothers in the town of Hawara earlier this year.
The highway shooting on Feb. 26 that killed the two men — brothers from the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha — had followed a deadly Israeli military raid in Nablus and unleashed the worst outburst of settler violence in decades. Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage in the town of Hawara after the shooting, burning dozens of Palestinian cars and shops and leaving one man dead.
Kharushah was later killed during an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in March.
Young Palestinians burned tires and hurled stones and explosive devices at Israeli forces who stormed into the Askar refugee camp to demolish Kharushah’s home, on the third floor of an apartment building, on Tuesday. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that two Palestinians were wounded by bullet shrapnel and others wounded by rubber bullets as Israeli soldiers tried to disperse the crowds. The Israeli military said it was also confronted with Palestinian gunfire in the camp.
The incursion comes at a fraught time in the West Bank, as Israeli-Palestinian fighting surges to levels unseen in nearly two decades. Earlier this week, Israeli troops killed three alleged Palestinian militants after a Palestinian gunman shot and killed an Israeli security guard in central Tel Aviv.
More than 160 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire this year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, according to a tally by The Associated Press. Israel says most killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting army raids and innocent bystanders have also been killed.
At least 26 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis so far this year.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.