The High Court of Justice on Thursday approved the IDF’s intention to demolish the houses of Rina Shnerb’s killers despite the impact it will have on uninvolved family members and their neighbors.
Bian Hanatashe, Halmi Hamdan and Sana’a Magamus, family members of Shnerb’s killers, had all petitioned the High Court to block the demolition orders.
Justices Hanan Melcer, Daphna Baraz-Erez and Yael Wilner voted unanimously to endorse the demolitions, saying that despite the harm to the family members who would lose their home, they were critical for deterring future terrorist attacks by people like the killers who murdered Shnerb last August.
The court said it was satisfied there was not any less-extreme action that could be taken to achieve deterrence, and the IDF would ensure that only the homes of the killers would be demolished, not homes of unrelated neighbors.
Melcer said at the hearing on the petitions he had asked the petitioning family members to condemn the actions of their relatives who were involved in Shnerb’s murder.
Such a condemnation might have served as a deterrent even in place of the demolition, he said, but his request was greeted by a disturbing and stony silence.
Shnerb family lawyer Maurice Hirsch said: “The Shnerb family are encouraged by the decision of the court approving the demolition of the houses of Hanatshe and Magamus. The family is still waiting for the final decision to demolish the house of Shibli and any decision on the demolition of the house of Samer Arbid. The Shnerbs hope that these decisions will strengthen Israel’s deterrence and contribute to the aversion of any more terrorist attacks.”
Arbid has been accused of being the mastermind of the terrorist attack that killed Shnerb. But he also nearly died while the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) was interrogating him, creating a twist in the handling of his case.
Human Rights Watch Israel-Palestine director Omar Shakir responded to the decision, tweeting: “Punitive home demolitions are war crimes. It is among the most elementary principles of law that one person should not be punished for another’s crime. A body that so easily discards basic legal principles isn’t a court, but a rubber stamp for rights abuse.”
Israel’s home demolitions are widely panned globally as violating the Geneva Conventions ban on collective punishment. But Israel says it has a legal basis as a “military necessity” under Article 53 of the Geneva Conventions. The Shin Bet has provided examples where it says arrested Palestinians told interrogators they held back from a terrorist attack because of fear of what would happen to their families’ houses.
From 2005 to 2014, Israel halted home demolitions after a commission of defense officials found it ineffective. But the defense establishment later revised its view.
Though the High Court approves most home demolitions, it has rejected several requests over the years.
Some politicians on the Right have attacked the High Court for these rejections and for delaying demolitions for months or longer.