The IDF demolished the home
of Islam Yousef Abu Hmaid, 32, who has been charged with killing St.-Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky
during a raid on May 26, the army’s Spokesperson’s Unit announced Saturday.
During the demolition of the four-story Abu Hmaid family building in Ramallah’s al-Am’ari refugee camp, riots broke out between Palestinians and troops, who responded with riot dispersal methods.
While no casualties reported, 56 Palestinians were injured.
According to reports, IDF troops cordoned off a section of the densely-populated refugee camp for the demolition, evacuating some 400 men, women and children from neighboring homes.
Palestinian News Agency Maan reported IDF forces detonated explosives inside the building at 7 and 9:20 a.m.
The IDF had initially informed the Hamid family that Israel intended to demolish the upper two floors of the building. In September, it was decided all four floors would be destroyed.
Israel’s military noted that the home was erected on a plot where a building was previously demolished in the 1990s following an attack by Hamid’s brother which killed Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operative Noam Cohen.
Cohen was killed during a security operation on February 13, 1994 when three Hamas operatives opened fire with automatic weapons on the car he was traveling in at the Beitunya junction. Cohen’s was hit by 62 bullets. Stepping outside his vehicle to return fire, the Shin Beit agent was shot and critically wounded. He later succumbed to his wounds.
Following the initial demolition the family was ordered not to rebuild the structure.
Hamid, who according to the Shin Bet served time in prison for terrorist activities committed on behalf of Hamas, was arrested and indicted in the death St.-Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky, 20. The Rehovot native, a combat soldier in the elite Duvdevan commando unit, was taking part of an operation aimed at arresting members of a terrorist cell involved in recent shooting attacks. He was part of the operation’s covering force when he was hit on the head by a 20-kg. marble slab dropped from a rooftop by Hamid.
Lubarsky received emergency medical attention in the field, and was transferred to intensive care at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center in Ein Karem where he died.
A controversial tactic, Israeli officials say home demolitions are a deterrent in stopping potential attackers. But Palestinians and human rights groups criticize the IDF for using collective punishment by demolishing the homes of the terrorist’s families.
In a related development, shortly after the home demolition Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ordered the rebuilding of the four-storey Abu Hmaid family house, according to an announcement Saturday by Hussein al-Sheikh of the Fatah Central Committee.
The PA, Hamas and other Palestinian groups condemned the house demolition as a “crime,” and urged Palestinians to continue their “resistance” against Israel.
“President Abbas has issued direct instructions to immediately rebuild the house of the Abu Hmaid family in the al-Am’ari refugee camp,” al-Sheikh told reporters in Ramallah. Abbas will travel to Amman on Sunday for talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II on the latest developments in the West Bank, he said.
Abbas, he added, was conducting intensive regional and international contacts in an effort to stop Israeli “aggression and settler terrorism” against the Palestinians.
“The Palestinian leadership will not stand still in the face of this frenzied onslaught targeting our people, first and foremost the Palestinian leadership because of its rejection of schemes aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause,” al-Sheikh said.
He also called on Hamas to “take advantage of this historic phase” to achieve unity among the Palestinians.
PA minister Walid Assaf, who heads the Palestinian “Commission for Resisting the Wall and Settlements,” also announced plans to rebuild the demolished house. Speaking at a press conference near the demolished building, Assaf said that a “national committee” would be formed to rebuild the Abu Hmaid house as soon as possible.
“Our people will not accept the policy of collective punishment imposed by the occupation against women and children in order to appease the settlers,” Assaf said. “We also won’t accept the policy of demolishing houses of citizens.”
However, several residents of the camp said on Saturday that they were also angry with the PA. “We didn’t see one Palestinian policeman during the Israeli raid,” complained Abu Ashraf, who said he was a Fatah activist who had spent three years in Israeli prison. “We are calling on the Palestinian leadership to immediately halt security coordination with the Israeli enemy.”
Another camp resident, Ahmed Abu Kwaik, said that the demolition of the house will “spark a new intifada” against both Israel and the PA.”We’re fed up with the Palestinian Authority’s empty statements of condemnation,” he said. “The Palestinian Authority is not doing anything to protect our people.”
The PA government again held Israel fully responsible for the recent upsurge of violence and condemned the demolition of the Abu Hmaid house as a form of collective punishment. Yusef al-Mahmoud, spokesman for the Ramallah-based government, called for providing international protection for the Palestinians, “whose lives and properties are being endangered by the Israeli occupation forces.”
Mahmoud al-Aloul, deputy chairman of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction, also vowed to rebuild the demolished house, and said that the Israeli “assaults will only increase the steadfastness of our people.” He said that the mother of Islam Abu Hmaid was the “mother of the Palestinian people, and we learn from her steadfastness and patience.”
The senior Fatah official, who is touted to succeed Abbas, 83, as president of the PA, claimed that Israel was targeting the Palestinian leadership because of its refusal to accept Israeli “schemes.” He also lashed out at Hamas and accused it of seeking to instigate “secondary internal conflicts instead of confronting the occupation.” Al-Aloul was referring to demonstrators organized by Hamas supporters in Hebron and Nablus on Friday to mark the founding of the movement 31 years ago.
Addressing Hamas, he said: “You either join the Palestinian people in their resistance against the occupation, or you sit and wait to see what happens. But we won’t allow you to drag us to secondary conflicts, because our conflict is with the occupation.”
Dozens of Palestinians staged a sit-in strike inside the Abu Hmaid house late Friday in a bid to prevent the IDF from demolishing it. IDF soldiers who arrived at the camp shortly after midnight evicted the protesters, as well as several families living close to the building. The families were taken to a nearby school, where they held until the demolition was completed.
The mother of Islam Abu Hmaid, 73-year-old Um Nasser, told reporters that she was sacrificing her home for the sake of Palestine and its people.”We won’t collapse and we won’t surrender,” said the mother, who has six sons in Israeli prison. A seventh son, Abdel Mun’em, was killed by the IDF. All were convicted of carrying out a series of terrorist attacks against Israelis in the past three decades.
In a related development, Palestinian activists on Saturday called for staging a sit-in strike inside the house belonging to the family of Saleh Barghouti, who was killed by the IDF last week on suspicion of involvement in the Ofra shooting attack in which seven Israelis were wounded. The prematurely born infant of one of the women wounded in the attack died four days later. Barghouti is from the village of Kobar in the Ramallah area.