Wednesday’s was the latest in a spate of such demolitions – collective punishments that are illegal under international law.
In keeping with the apartheid character of Israeli rule, Israel exclusively uses this method of punishment against Palestinians and never against Jews.
Al-Abed, who was shot and injured, is in Israeli custody, but has not been convicted or sentenced in any kind of legal process. Yet members of his family are already paying a steep price.
Local residents told the Ma’an News Agency that a large Israeli force stormed the West Bank village of al-Kobar early on Wednesday and surrounded the al-Abed family home while construction equipment was used to destroy most of the house.
Al-Kobar has been sealed by Israeli occupation forces, another form of collective punishment, since the 21 July stabbing attack in Halamish.
Palestinian youths confronted Israeli forces during the assault Wednesday morning. Twelve Palestinians, including a journalist, were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets, according to medical services.
Israel has also been taking direct revenge on members of al-Abed’s family: occupation forces have already detained his mother, father, two of his brothers and an uncle.
Illegal and morally repugnant
Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group said that punitive demolitions are “morally repugnant and prohibited under international law.” But Israel’s high court has “repeatedly allowed the state to use this extreme measure.”
On 10 August, Israel demolished the homes of three Palestinian families and sealed the home of another, in Silwad and Deir Abu Mashal villages, near Ramallah.
B’Tselem said the collective punishments were implemented because members of those households were accused of car-ramming and shooting attacks in April and June of this year.
“The demolitions and sealing by the military have rendered 18 people homeless, seven of them minors, who were neither suspected nor accused of any wrongdoing,” B’Tselem said.
On paper, families targeted for collective revenge have a right to appeal the decision to destroy their house. But according to B’Tselem, the Israeli high court has in practice “rendered judicial review meaningless and has become an active player in a procedural formality designed to lend a semblance of legal propriety to an illegal and immoral action.”
The Fourth Geneva Convention, which the UN Security Council has repeatedly affirmed applies to Israel’s military occupation, states that no person “may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed” and that “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
Yet according to Ma’an, “Israeli soldiers posted leaflets in the streets of al-Kobar threatening residents with similar punishment should they attempt to carry out attacks against Israelis.”
In July, Israel’s high court rejected a petition from the family of Muhammad Abu Khudair, the Palestinian teenager kidnapped and murdered in 2014, to demolish the family homes of his Israeli Jewish killers.
The court justified the blatantly discriminatory ruling by claiming that the demolitions are not punitive but designed to deter attacks, and that Jews, unlike Palestinians, do not require such deterrence.
The Israeli military determined in 2005 that the demolitions have no deterrent value and suspended the practice. The Israeli government revived it in 2014 on the pretext of “deterrence.”
Caterpillar equipment used in another war crime
A photo published by Ma’an News Agency shows Israeli forces using a militarized excavator to carry out the al-Kobar demolition. It is the same model previously identified by The Electronic Intifada as manufactured by the US firm Caterpillar.
The machine in the photo is a Bagger E-349, a militarized version of Caterpillar’s model 349E Hydraulic Excavator.
As The Electronic Intifada reported, the same model was used during an apparent extrajudicial execution of Palestinian Muhammad al-Faqih in the village of Surif a year ago.
The machine is also visible in Israeli army footage of the al-Kobar demolition.
Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Illinois, has long been the focus of boycott and divestment campaigns for selling equipment Israel uses in human rights abuses and war crimes, including the demolitions of homes and construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.
Collective punishment is a war crime under international law.