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Israel demolishes West Bank home of Palestinian attacker and approves law to strip Arab attackers of citizenship

Israel says home demolitions are meant to deter future attackers, but critics say they amount to collective punishment of the families of assailants and only worsen tensions.
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/ Source: The Associated Press

Israeli forces demolished the home on Thursday of a Palestinian behind a deadly shooting in the occupied West Bank, as tensions and unrest surge in the region.

The military said the demolition was carried out after an Israeli court rejected appeals to spare the residence. The home, in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron, was demolished in a controlled explosion. A flash and then grey tufts of smoke were seen emerging from the apartment in the early morning hours.

Israel says home demolitions are meant to deter future attackers but critics say they amount to collective punishment against the families of assailants and only exacerbate tensions with Palestinians. On Wednesday Israel’s parliament overwhelmingly approved a law to strip Arabs convicted in nationalistic attacks of their Israeli citizenship or residency and deport them if they have accepted stipends from the Palestinian Authority.

The decision, which could potentially affect hundreds of Palestinian citizens and residents of Israel, was condemned as racist by Arab lawmakers as well as Palestinian officials in the occupied West Bank.

The internationally recognized Palestinian Authority has long provided stipends to the families of Palestinians killed or imprisoned for attacks on Israelis. Prisoners are widely seen as heroes in Palestinian society, and the PA considers these payments as a form of welfare to needy families. But Israel says they reward violence and serve as an incentive for others to carry out attacks.

In the fatal shooting incident last year, Muhammed Kamel al-Jabari opened fire at the entrance to an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, killing an Israeli man and wounding several civilians before a security guard shot him dead.

The demolition comes as unrest has been roiling the region for months. Israel has been conducting near-nightly arrest raids in the West Bank, which were prompted by a spate of Palestinian attacks against Israelis last spring. Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and east Jerusalem in 2022, making it the deadliest year in those territories since 2004, according to a leading Israeli rights group.

Nearly 50 Palestinians have been killed in those lands just this year, a sign that the fighting has intensified in recent weeks, just as Israel’s new, far-right government has risen to power. It has promised to take a tough line against the Palestinians, and already has taken steps to ramp up West Bank settlement building.

Israel says most of those killed have been militants. But youth protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.

Some 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis last year while at least another 11 people have been killed in attacks this year.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.

Most Palestinians in Jerusalem have Israeli residency rights, which allow them to work and travel freely and provide access to Israeli social services, but not full citizenship, which would allow them to vote.

In Wednesday’s vote, parliament voted 94-10 in favor of the law, which gives authorities the right to strip people of their citizenship or residency and deport them to either the neighboring West Bank or Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Authority has limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, where Israel wields overall control. The Gaza Strip, meanwhile, is controlled by the Hamas militant group and largely closed by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

Jewish lawmakers across the political spectrum, including the opposition, voted in favor of the bill, while Arab lawmakers voted against it.

Arab lawmaker Ahmad Tibi said the bill was racist because it only applies to Palestinians convicted of violence.

“An Arab who commits an offense is a conditional citizen,” he said. “If a Jew commits the same offense or a more serious one, they don’t even think of revoking his citizenship.”