JERUSALEM (AP) – The Supreme Court of Israel on Wednesday upheld the decision to destroy the family home of a Palestinian detainee accused of a fatal shooting. He rejected a petition from his ex-wife, who lives in the house with their children, and says she knew nothing about the attack.
The case attracted attention Israel’s policy of demolishing the family homes of the attackers after they have been killed or arrested. Israeli officials say the demolitions deter future attacks, while rights groups see them as a form of collective punishment.
The US State Department has called for an end to punitive home demolitions. An internal review by the IDF in 2004 reportedly questioned its effectiveness as a deterrent, leading the military to largely halt such demolitions for nearly a decade. He resumed the practice in 2014 after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank.
Israel says Muntasser Shalaby carried out a May 2 driving shot in the occupied West Bank which killed one Israeli and injured two others. He was arrested a few days after the attack.
His wife, Sanaa Shalaby, told The Associated Press that they had been separated for several years and that he spent most of his time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he married three other women during unofficial Islamic ceremonies. The whole family has American nationality.
Sana’a said he would return to the West Bank for a month or two every year to visit their three children, aged 17, 12 and 9, who live with her in the house in Turmus Ayya village. HaMoked, an Israeli rights group representing her, said he had a history of mental illness.
In upholding the demolition order, the Supreme Court noted that Muntasser had lived in the house continuously from 2006 to 2012, before their separation, and had resided there for weeks before the attack. He said the petitioners had not presented sufficient evidence to show that he suffered from a mental illness.
Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, said the “disappointing” ruling would allow the military to expand the use of punitive house demolitions. His group is weighing whether to request another hearing and says the court will likely not grant one.
She said the house could be demolished at any time after an interim injunction expired on June 30.
“If Ms. Shalaby’s legal remedy has been exhausted, diplomatic remedy is crucial: will the US government allow this blatant collective punishment against an American citizen mother and her three children?
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision. Earlier this month, he called on Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from any action that undermines efforts to revive the peace process, including punitive house demolitions.
“The house of an entire family should not be demolished for the actions of one individual,” he said.
Associated Press writer Isaac Scharf contributed.