A day after two Palestinian men killed five Israelis at an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities made reprisals, demolishing the home of a Palestinian involved in an earlier attack at a tram stop.
On Wednesday morning, a controlled explosion ripped through a fourth-floor apartment in a residential block in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. It was the home of Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, who drove his car into a crowd on a train station platform Oct. 22. Two people were killed, including a 3-month-old. Shaludi was later shot dead by security forces.
"The home of the terrorist, who killed an Israeli baby and a young woman on October 22 in a tram station in Jerusalem was destroyed in Silwan," the Israeli military said in a statement.
Shaludi's family maintains he had lost control of the car and accidentally veered into the crowd. They walked through the rubble of their blasted apartment soon after it was destroyed. Three other families living in the same building had to evacuate the premises. The entire neighborhood was cordoned off by police, reports al Jazeera.
Three other Palestinian families in East Jerusalem also have homes slated for demolition: that of Mohammed Jaabis, a 23-year-old who rammed an earthmover into an Israeli bus Aug. 4, killing one Israeli; Muataz Hijazi, who attacked a right-wing Jewish activist Oct. 29; and Ibrahim Akari, who plowed his car into pedestrians Nov. 5, killing two. All three men are dead.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also ordered the razing of the homes of Uda Abu Jamal and Ghassan Abu Jamal, two cousins who carried out Tuesday's bloody attack on the synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.
The demolitions, which punish the families of Palestinian men who are often already deceased or in custody, are controversial. According to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, between October 2001 and January 2005, 664 houses belonging to suspected militants in the Palestinian territories were destroyed, leaving 4,182 people homeless. (This is separate from Israel's continued bulldozing of Palestinian homes it claims were built illegally or without valid permits.)
The Israeli military abandoned the tactic in 2005, deeming it an insufficient deterrent to would-be terrorists and a possible catalyst for more violence.
But Netanyahu's government renewed the practice this year, destroying the homes of two Palestinian men connected to the disappearance and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. News of the teens' abduction provoked a wave of violence that culminated in Israel's blistering summer campaign in Gaza, which targeted Islamist group Hamas and other militant factions firing rockets into Israel.
More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, including many women and children. 66 Israeli soldiers and seven Israeli civilians also died.
Critics of the home demolitions say it is a form of "collective punishment" against Palestinians, for whom the experience of dispossession and displacement is both a historical memory and a lived reality.
"Regardless of the situation, it is morally outrageous to punish individuals or families for the action of others, [people] who have not been involved in any kind of lawbreaking," Sarit Michaeli, a spokeswoman for B’Tselem, told my colleague Sudarsan Raghavan this year. "In a nutshell, it is an official policy of harming the innocent."
But Israeli officials counter that such harsh retaliation is needed to break the militant commitments of some Palestinian communities. One Israeli official, speaking to The Post on condition of anonymity this year, said the tactic "levels the playing field."
It's either wishful thinking or a cold calculation. Back at the gutted Shaludi residence, his relatives offered a mournful lament.
"Netanyahu wanted all this. He is happy now," Shaludi's uncle, Amer al-Shaludi, told The Post on Wednesday. "But this will stop nothing. The cycles of violence will go on and on."