Israeli armies destroy family homes of Palestinian bombers

Wednesday, August 7, 2002

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- The Idris family doesn't have anywhere to go, but they've moved the furniture and clothes out of their home, leaving it virtually empty.

The Israelis are knocking down the houses of Palestinian attackers, and the Idrises believe they are on the list of families whose homes will soon be demolished because 27-year-old Wafa Idris -- the first female Palestinian suicide bomber -- carried out a deadly attack in Jerusalem in January.

As the Idris family packed their belongings, Israel's Supreme Court upheld the military's right Tuesday to tear down homes of Palestinian terror suspects without warning. The court rejected a petition by 35 Palestinian families whose homes are believed slated for demolition. The petitioners asked for 48 hours notice to give them time to try to stop the demolitions with a court order.

Over the past week, Israeli troops have demolished more than 10 homes belonging to attackers in the West Bank, reviving a practice abandoned several years ago. When Israeli troops arrive, they give families just a few minutes to get out before demolition begins.

The Israeli government argues it faces an onslaught of shooting and bombing attacks, and that house demolitions are intended to deter extremists who will now know their actions will harm their families. More than 300 Israelis have been killed in suicide bombings in the past 22 months of fighting.

Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib said the practice violates international law. He criticized the court ruling as widening the scope of Israel's punishment of ordinary Palestinians during its military operations.

"This is only going to deepen the hatred and consequently widen the cycle of violence," he said.

Lior Yavne, of the Israeli human rights group B'tselem, said the practice was used often in the 1987-1993 Palestinian uprising, during which more than 400 homes of Palestinians were destroyed. Yavne said the practice was abandoned soon after because it proved ineffective in preventing attacks.

A three-judge Supreme Court panel ruled that allowing court hearings to challenge demolitions could put soldiers' lives in danger because it would give Palestinians a chance to rig the houses with boobytraps or set up ambushes. The ruling leaves it up to the military to decide whether there should be hearings in some cases.

Military officials said in some cases, where there is little threat of danger to soldiers, families are given 48 hours notice, which enables them to seek an injunction. If there is a threat to soldiers, however, the families are given only a few minutes to get out.

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