Israel Supreme Court Restricts Army’s Right to Demolish Homes of Palestinian Suspects
The Supreme Court on Sunday restricted the army’s right to demolish homes of Palestinians suspected of involvement in the anti-Israeli uprising, saying the military must allow appeals before houses are destroyed.
It was the court’s strongest move to limit army powers during the 19-month-old uprising in the occupied lands. The practice of destroying homes has been denounced by the United States and other Western nations and human rights groups.
The 18-page court ruling was in response to an appeal by the Assn. for Civil Rights in Israel.
The three-member court ordered the army to inform owners of houses slated for demolition that they could appeal to a military commander and the Supreme Court.
It ruled that in some cases, a house may be sealed before the appeal hearing, “as opposed to demolition, which is irreversible.”
Presiding Judge Meir Shamgar said the army has the right to immediately demolish a house in case of “operational military needs,” such as in combat.
A military spokesman said 227 houses have been demolished in the occupied territories during the uprising. Palestinian groups say the number is higher.
The State Department in February said the house demolitions violated the Geneva Conventions on human rights and ignored due process because suspects’ houses were torn down before they were tried.
“Israeli authorities took these actions . . . prior to trial and conviction,” said the report. “The occupants, who are often served with the demolition order only hours before it is to be carried out, have no right of appeal.”
The Foreign Ministry responded by saying the measure was used “only in very exceptional circumstances as dictated by compelling security requirements.”
In court arguments, the state prosecutor’s office and the army argued that an appeal period is granted automatically according to army policy, except in “serious and exceptional cases” that involve fatalities or injuries.
In the occupied territories, meanwhile, five Palestinians died in the continuing violence and Israeli police raided the offices of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s militantly anti-Arab Kach movement.
A Jewish settler shot and killed a Palestinian during stone-throwing clashes in the Gaza Strip, three Arabs died of army gunshot wounds and another was beaten to death by fellow Palestinians.
In a crackdown on Jewish militants, police entered the Jerusalem headquarters of the Kach movement and arrested eight militant Israelis on suspicion they were fomenting rebellion as members of the “Free State of Judea,” which calls for founding a Jewish nation in the West Bank.
One of the five Arabs who died was killed when a settler from Rafiah Ram opened fire after his car was stoned near Beit Hanoun, police sources said.