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Israel prepares to demolish homes of Palestinians accused of killing soldier

Israeli troops conduct a search operation in the West Bank, following a stabbing attack [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 13 August, 2019

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Israeli forces mapped the homes of two Palestinians suspected of murdering an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank.

The homes of two Palestinians suspected of killing an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank are at risk of being demolished, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Israeli forces mapped the homes of cousins Nseir Asafra and Kassem Asafra, who were arrested Saturday in Beit Kahil, overnight Sunday, heightening suspicions the houses are marked to be demolished.

Israel's domestic intelligence agency announced Saturday it had arrested the two Palestinians suspected of killing an off-duty Israeli soldier earlier this week.

"After an intensive intelligence operation by security services, the Israeli police and army arrested suspects in the murder of soldier Dvir Sorek", Shin Bet said in a statement.

Israeli forces arrested Kassem's wife Enas, as well as Akrama Asafra, on suspicion of aiding the two suspects, Haaretz reported.

The Israeli army had said on Thursday that the body of 19-year-old Sorek was found "with stabbing marks" near the Jewish settlement of Migdal Oz.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described the killing as a "terrorist" attack. On a visit to the Israeli settlement of Beit El near Ramallah in the West Bank, Netanyahu blamed "twisted terrorists (who) come to destroy while we are here to construct."

The premier inaugurated 650 new homes at the settlement before travelling to Migdal Oz where he visited the crime scene.

Sorek was in a programme that combined military service with religious study, the seminary head told Israeli public radio.

He had been in Jerusalem "to buy a gift for his teachers" and was returning to the seminary when he was killed, rabbi Shlomo Wilk said.

"He was in contact half an hour before he was murdered," he went on.

"About 100 metres (yards) from the bus stop, before he entered the settlement, he was murdered."

The killing - between Bethlehem and the flashpoint city of Hebron - risks raising Israeli-Palestinian tensions weeks ahead of September 17 polls in Israel.

Netanyahu is widely seen as wanting to avoid a major flare-up in the Palestinian territories before the poll, but he is likely to face political pressure to act firmly.

The Israeli army said Saturday security forces had apprehended "the terrorist squad suspected to have perpetrated the attack north of Hebron".

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It said rioters had hurled rocks towards its troops, who responded with "riot dispersal means".

Around 2,000 people attended Sorek's funeral, held Thursday evening in the Ofra settlement, part of which was aired by Israel's public broadcaster.

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.

Around 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, next to some three million Palestinians.

Netanyahu pledged in April to annex settlements in the West Bank, a deeply controversial move.

Palestinians and many governments around the world warn that continued settlement construction by Israel in the West Bank is eating away at hopes for a two-state solution to the conflict.

Annexing them on a large scale spell the end of such a solution.

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