Court halts home demolition of soldier Amit Ben-Yigal’s alleged killer

The decision was made with a majority of two judges in favor of cancelling the planned demolition.

First Sergeant Amit Ben Yigal (photo credit: FACEBOOK VIA MAARIV)
First Sergeant Amit Ben Yigal
(photo credit: FACEBOOK VIA MAARIV)
In a controversial ruling, the High Court of Justice has halted the IDF’s planned demolition of the home of Palestinian Nizmi Abu Bakar, indicted for killing soldier Amit Ben-Yigal by dropping a cinder block on his head.
The incident took place in May during a military operation in the village of Yabad, near the West Bank city of Jenin.
The 2-1 decision to overturn the demolition order had the support of Justices Menachem Mazuz and George Kara.
The demolition would have rendered homeless Abu Bakar’s wife and eight children, who were not connected to the attack in any way, both justices said.
It should be satisfactory to seal the room Abu Bakar inhabited, as opposed to demolishing the home that houses nine people, they said.
“The wife and children were not attributed by the claimants to any involvement in the criminal actions of the father – not in any form of assistance, knowledge of intention that the action would take place, nor in retrospective support of [Abu Bakar’s] actions,” Mazuz wrote.
“The perpetrator himself was captured and prosecuted and is expected to serve a lengthy prison sentence, if convicted,” he wrote. “Hence, the demolition of the home is primarily designed to cause damage to his wife and children, who remain living in the home and whose demolition will leave them homeless.”
Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said they would appeal the ruling.
Netanyahu wrote on Twitter: “This is an unfortunate decision by the High Court that refused our request to demolish the house of the terrorist who murdered the late IDF soldier Amit Ben-Yigal, who was the only son of his parents. I demand to establish proceedings with an expanded panel [of judges]. Terrorism must not be allowed to prevail. My policy as prime minister is to destroy the homes of terrorists, and I intend to continue to do so.”
Gantz tweeted: “Of course, we will respect any ruling of the High Court, but the ruling that revoked the order to demolish the house of the terrorist who killed the late Amit Ben-Yigal is unfortunate.”
“Home demolitions for deterrence is an important tool in the war on terrorism,” he wrote. “Therefore, I instructed staff in the Defense Ministry to contact the attorney-general to submit a request for another hearing on the ruling.”
Jessica Montell, executive director of left-wing NGO HaMoked, which filed the court petition, said: “We welcome this decision, which saves a mother and her eight children, against whom there are no allegations of wrongdoing, from being made homeless. However, the court should have ruled against the whole policy of punitive demolitions as an illegal collective punishment, with doubtful effectiveness as a deterrent, even according to the military. It is long past time to end this barbaric practice, which contradicts basic principles of morality and justice.”
Public and political reaction to opponents to the ruling has been fierce, with some framing it as an example of legal overreach perpetrated by the High Court against government and IDF policies.
Ben-Yigal’s father, Baruch, burst into tears at the verdict. He “lowered the Israeli flag to half-mast,” he told Channel 13. “This is not a good day for the State of Israel.”
Ben-Yigal’s girlfriend told Channel 13: “I am ashamed that such people exist in this country. [They] will not destroy the terrorist’s house because his family is ‘innocent’? And what are we? Why do we have to go through this? Do I deserve it? Do his parents, sisters, friends [deserve this]?”
“I have no words, but shame,” she said. “IDF soldiers put their lives on the line so that [the justices] can sleep peacefully at night. But even in their deaths they can’t give them respect? My Amit, I am sorry that you sacrificed your life, and there isn’t even a drop of appreciation and logic.”
Ben-Yigal’s mother wrote on Facebook: “Amit, we educated you to love the country, and we do not regret it. We educated you to be inducted into the IDF in a meaningful way, and we do not regret it. You have given everything, your entire life. You have left us here alone, and we are managing in this cruel world. Amit, save us from more struggles.”
Yamina Party chairman Naftali Bennett criticized the decision. “The High Court decision is poking the public’s eye,” he said.
Bennett promised Ben-Yigal’s father to “do everything to destroy the house of the terrorist who killed his son. The High Court decision is a terrible injustice, and it encourages other potential terrorists to go out and carry out an attack.”
“We will work for another hearing, expanded in the High Court, to reverse the decision and destroy the house,” Bennett said.