The High Court of Justice upheld a decision by the Israel Defense Forces to demolish the home of a Palestinian man charged with killing an Israeli soldier.

Rejecting a petition from Islam Yousef Abu Hamid’s family against a demolition order issued by the IDF in September, the court ruled the entire home may be destroyed and not just the 2nd and 4th floors of the building where the assailant lived.

Hamid killed Staff Sgt. Ronen Lubarsky, a member of the elite Duvdevan unit, by dropping a marble slab on the top of his head from a neighboring home during an IDF raid in the al-Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah, according to the charge sheet.

The Hamid family asked the court to nullify the IDF’s demolition order because their son had not yet been convicted of killing Lubarsky, while arguing that demolishing the entire building would cause disproportionate harm to the other occupants who were not involved in the attack. The family also argued that the IDF only moved to demolish the entire building at the urging of the Lubarsky family.

However, Justice Yael Wilner rejected the Palestinian family’s petition, saying that Israeli military courts are not legally required to wait for a conviction before issuing demolition orders. 

In the unanimous decision, Wilner acknowledged that razing the entire building would unfairly harm some residents, but said Israel’s security considerations and the need to establish deterrence against future attacks “did not justify reducing the scope of the demolition order.”

Lubarsky’s father praised the court for rejecting the Hamid family’s petition, and called for his son’s killer to be sentenced to death.

“The decision is a victory for sanity,” he told the Kan public broadcaster on Sunday following the ruling. “We expect only more thing — imposing the death penalty on the terrorist who murdered Ronen.”

In September, Hamid’s family was informed that the IDF intended to destroy all four stories of the building, and not just two floors as had previously been stated.

The IDF noted that the home was erected on a plot where a building was previously demolished in the 1990s, following an attack by Hamid’s brother. At the time, the family was ordered not to rebuild the structure. 

A military court filed an indictment in May against Hamid, 32, charging him with murder.

According to court papers, on the night of the clash, Hamid woke up to the sounds of dogs barking and soldiers shouting as they arrested two of his neighbors in an adjacent house.

Hamid climbed to the roof of a neighboring home where he chose the heavier of two marble slabs placed there. He lifted the 40-pound slab onto the railing of the roof and hurled it down onto Lubarsky, who was standing below.

The suspect then immediately climbed back onto the roof of his home and crawled inside as soldiers tended to their injured comrade.

Lubarsky, from the central city of Rehovot, was critically injured and died of his wounds two days later.

Hamid was also charged with obstruction of justice for efforts to tamper with the crime scene hours after the incident.

According to the indictment, Hamid went back to the adjacent rooftop and used cleaning materials to wipe his fingerprints off of the second marble slab that he had grasped earlier, but decided against using.

Vladimir Lubarsky (R) and Arik Lubarsky speak to reporters outside the Ofer military court in the West Bank on August 15, 2018. (Choosing Life Forum)

The IDF said that the soldiers had been on a mission to arrest members of a terror cell who had been carrying out shooting attacks. The raid was based on intelligence information obtained in coordination with the Shin Bet security agency.

A few days after Lubarsky was killed, the military carried out a raid in al-Am’ari, in an apparent effort to locate the soldier’s killer. Clashes broke out between residents and the Israeli troops, with 13 Palestinians lightly or moderately injured, the Palestinian Health Ministry said at the time. Hamid was arrested in the raid. 

According to the Shin Bet, Hamid had been incarcerated in Israeli prison from 2004 to 2009 for terrorist activities committed on behalf of the Hamas terrorist group.

In a statement, the security service also said Hamid’s brothers were also members of Hamas.

Israel says the practice of demolishing terrorists’ homes is an effective means of discouraging future attacks, though it has been criticized by human rights groups as a form of collective punishment and by some analysts as an ineffective deterrent measure.

Date published: 06/12/2018
Written by: TOI STAFF
Feature image: Israeli troops on June 6, 2018, arrest a Palestinian man suspected of killing an IDF soldier by dropping a stone slab on his head in the al-Am’ari refugee camp in Ramallah the month before. (Israel Defense Forces)
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