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Israeli forces demolish home of Ariel attacker’s family

Local residents gathered to see the extent of the destruction [Alaraby aljadeed]

Date of publication: 24 April, 2019

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Israeli forces used dynamite to demolish the family home of Omar Abu Layla, despite the UN and human rights organisations strongly condemning the practice.

Israeli forces on Wednesday morning demolished the home belonging to the family of Omar Abu Layla in the village of al-Zawiya, near Salfit in northern West Bank, as collective punishment for Abu Layla’s deadly attack on the nearby settlement of Ariel last month. Abu Layla was shot dead by Israeli forces on March 19, three days after the attack.

Village chief Naeem Shaqir spoke to The New Arab’s correspondent, saying that some 35 troops stormed the village in the middle of the night, evacuating all the neighbouring houses and forcing the residents into a nearby school yard, before demolishing the walls of the Abu Layla home by hand.

They then used dynamite to demolish the building entirely. Footage of the dramatic explosion later circulated on social media.

Israeli forces had been observing the house since the 19 April, threatening its demolition after an Israeli court rejected an appeal by the Abu Layla family to stop the demolition of their home.

The court granted the military permission to destroy the house as of 23 April and the family had vacated the house in preparation.

Omar’s father Amin Abu Layla told journalists at the scene that the Israeli forces raided his house and neighboring houses 200 meters away in a “barbaric manner”, firing sound bombs and tear gas, and terrorising the children.

"Even if they demolish the house, they will not destroy our resolve," Amin Abu Leila said.

He also stressed the need to pressure the occupation forces to hand over the body of his son so he could be buried according to Islamic religious tradition, and not what he called an occupation “mass grave”.

Israeli forces shot dead Omar Abu Layla on March 19, during an armed confrontation in the village of Abwein north of Ramallah.

Three days previously Abu Layla carried out a deadly attack on the Ariel settlement near Salfit, in which he stabbed a soldier to death, seized his weapon and shot at several cars before taking one of the cars to another nearby junction, where he opened fire and wounded a second soldier.

A settler he fired at later died of his wounds and a second soldier remains in critical condition.

The settler was named as Ahiad Ettinger, a 47-year-old rabbi who lived in the nearby Eli settlement.

Israel routinely destroys the homes of the families of alleged Palestinian attackers as a form of collective punishment against the community.

The Israeli authorities contend that these punitive demolitions issue “a severe message of deterrence to terrorists and their accomplices – that they will pay a price if they continue their terrorist activities and harm innocent people.”

Despite having halted the practice in 2005 after deeming it ineffective, it was reinstated in 2014.

The UN and human rights organisations have said that the practice contravenes international law. However, Israel shows no sign of stopping.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967. More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

All Israeli settlements across the occupied West Bank are classed as illegal under international law, particularly article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which asserts that "the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies".

Israeli forces and settlers routinely attack Palestinians in the occupied territories, demolishing their homes, poisoning their livestock and vandalising their properties.

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