Court orders home of Jerusalem yeshiva terrorist sealed

Barkat praises ruling, says such punishment for terror needs to be "effective and immediate."

mourning tent 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
mourning tent 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Ending a months-long legal battle, the High Court of Justice ruled Monday that the home of an Arab terrorist who gunned down eight young students in a Jerusalem yeshiva can be partially sealed, rejecting a petition against the punitive measure by the attacker's father. The landmark decision, which came 10 months after the attack at the city's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, was seen as likely to pave the way for similar cases still pending in the country's highest court. The court ruled that the military can permanently seal two of the four floors of the family's east Jerusalem home with cement, in accordance with a decision by OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan. According to Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby, the decision on when to seal the home would be made by the military. Both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have voiced support for demolishing terrorists' homes in Jerusalem following back-to-back attacks in the capital last year perpetrated by Arab residents of east Jerusalem. In March, Ala Abu Dhaim shot dead eight students when he burst into the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in the capital's Kiryat Moshe neighborhood and opened fire in the library. After firing hundreds of bullets, Abu Dhaim was shot dead by an off-duty IDF officer. The High Court had previously issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the IDF from demolishing Abu Dhaim's home in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber. The court rejected the petitioner's argument that, since 2005, Israel had changed its policy and no longer engaged in a policy of destroying terrorists' homes, and ruled that it was not appropriate to intervene in the Home Front Command's changes of policy or lack thereof. In the past, Israel routinely demolished terrorists' homes, but stopped the controversial practice, which was widely condemned by human rights groups and Palestinians as collective punishment, after a report recommended that demolitions only be carried out in the most extreme cases. Proponents of the policy say that demolishing the home of a terrorist serves as a deterrance and that failure to mete out such punishment promotes future attacks. The state had argued that the severity of the crime and the marked increase in terror activity by Jerusalem's Arab residents over the last couple years necessitated renewal of the practice. In a first reaction, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Monday praised the court's decision, and called it an important deterrent. "Anyone who carries out a terror attack in Jerusalem does not belong in this city, and their home needs to be destroyed," Barkat said in a written statement, adding that swift regulation needed to be enacted so that such punishment could be both "effective and immediate." In the coming days, the military will need to decide whether to seal the terrorist's east Jerusalem home while Israel's massive assault on Hamas in Gaza - which has heightened tensions in east Jerusalem - is still under way or wait until the Gaza operation has ended, security officials said.