Bulldozer killer’s home may not be demolished

High-ranking IDF officers have advised Defence Minister Ehud Barak not to order the demolition of home of Husam Dwiat, who killed three Israelis last Wednesday in Jerusalem.

Calls for the demolition of the house of Dwiat’s family in the Sur Bahir neighbourhood of East Jerusalem were heard from politicians following the tractor rampage in which Dwiat killed Bat Sheva Unterman, Elizabeth (Lili) Goren and Jean Relevy and wounded more than 50 others, before being shot by an off-duty soldier.

Mr Barak, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski were among those calling for the demolition. Despite the order, high-ranking officers in the IDF’s Home Command are recommending not to demolish, but to seal off the home. The officers believe that Israel’s Supreme Court will not authorise the demolition order since two other families live in the building. Until recently, demolishing the homes of terrorists — a practice from the days of the British mandate of Palestine — was standard procedure. But a commission headed by Major-General Udi Shani ruled that it was ineffective as a deterrent against terror.

Following last week’s attack and the killing of eight students at the Merkaz Harav Yeshivah four months ago, also by a citizen of East Jerusalem, the government is re-examining its policy.

Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz, while saying that such a move would be legal, added that all security and political aspects must be taken into consideration and that “every case of a house demolition must be examined minutely by the IDF, the [internal security service] Shabak and in conjunction with the Justice Ministry”.

Mr Mazuz’s deputy told the Knesset Interior Committee on Monday that the Shani Commission report, which remains confidential, did not say that house demolitions were not a deterrent, but that it was debatable and listed other legal and diplomatic reasons against the method.

Avraham Colthof, a relative of Bat Sheva Unterman, was also at the Knesset, and called for Dwiat’s house to be demolished. Speaking to the JC later, Mr Colthof said: “We are not after revenge, but we think that this is something that could act as a deterrent and prevent the next murder.

“I know that the Shani Commission was against, but they were talking about Palestinians from the territories who have little to lose.

“In this case and with the Merkaz Harav murderer, who lived in East Jerusalem and had much better lives, the knowledge that their families could lose their homes will have a much greater effect.”

Mr Colthof also criticised the policeman who first shot at Dwiat for not making sure he was dead. “He probably thought that if he shot him again just to make sure, he wouldn’t receive any backing from his superiors. So Dwiat, despite being wounded, carried on driving and crushed Bat Sheva’s car.”

    Last updated: 10:01am, July 10 2008