Israeli forces demolished the home of a Palestinian behind a deadly shooting in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, as tensions and unrest in the region escalate.
The army said the demolition was carried out after an Israeli court rejected appeals to save the residence. The house, in the West Bank city of Hebron, was demolished in a controlled explosion. A flash and then gray plumes of smoke were seen billowing from the apartment in the early hours of the morning.
Israel says the house demolitions are meant to deter future attackers, but critics say they amount to collective punishment against the families of the attackers and only exacerbate tensions with the Palestinians. Israel’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved a law to strip Arabs convicted of nationalist 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 and 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 considered heroes in Palestinian society, and the Palestinian Authority views these payments as a form of welfare for families in need. But Israel says they reward violence and serve as an incentive for others to carry out attacks.
In last year’s fatal shooting, Muhammed Kamel al-Jabari opened fire at the entrance to an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, killing an Israeli and wounding several civilians before he was shot dead by a security guard.
The demolition comes as unrest has been rocking the region for months. Israel has been carrying out arrest raids almost every night in the West Bank, which were sparked by a series of Palestinian attacks on 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 on the land this year, a sign that fighting has intensified in recent weeks, just as Israel’s new far-right government has come to power. He has vowed to take a hard line against the Palestinians and has already taken steps to speed up settlement construction in the West Bank.
Israel says most of the dead have been militants. But young people protesting the incursions and others who were not involved in the clashes have also been killed.
Some 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis last year, while at least 11 other people have been killed in attacks this year.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war. Palestinians seek those territories for their long-awaited 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 the neighboring West Bank or the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority has limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank, where Israel exercises overall control. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip is controlled by the Hamas militant group and largely closed off by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
Jewish lawmakers from 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 a crime is a conditional citizen,» he said. «If a Jew commits the same or a more serious crime, they don’t even think about revoking his citizenship.»