In the face of the growing wave of terrorism, Israel has been forced to take certain measures in order to protect the lives of innocent civilians. One such measure is the demolition of structures connected to particularly dangerous terrorists. Since 2013, there has been a sharp increase in terrorist attacks, with more than 1,400 incidents that targeted Israeli citizens and endangered their lives. Attacks on civilians include shootings (such as the 18 November attack on a Jerusalem synagogue); stabbings; abductions and attempted abductions (including the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers in June); attacks on pedestrians with cars, vans and heavy equipment; Molotov cocktail attacks; and attacks in which lethal objects were thrown at moving vehicles.

In the face of the growing wave of terrorism, Israel has been forced to take certain measures in order to protect the lives of innocent civilians. One such measure – used only in exceptional cases – is the demolition of structures connected to particularly dangerous terrorists.

Demolition orders are issued only against the residences of terrorists who commit the most serious offences. For example, Ziad Awad, who on 14 April fired dozens of rounds from an automatic assault rifle at passing Israeli vehicles. An off-duty police officer was murdered in the attack and his pregnant wife and nine-year-old son were injured. A second example can be found in the case of Abdelrahman al-Shaludi, who murdered a three-month-old baby girl and a 22-year-old woman from Ecuador, and also injured seven people, when he deliberately rammed his car into a crowd near a light-rail train station in Jerusalem in October. 

The demolition of residences is not used as a punitive action. Rather, demolition is an act of deterrence, designed to discourage other terrorists and thereby minimize the number of future terrorist attacks. This measure is also undertaken in accordance with the rule of military necessity, so as to prevent terrorists from returning to their property and using it for further terrorist activities.

Legality and safeguards:

The demolition of a terrorist’s house is a lawful administrative measure. However, Israel is aware of the serious potential effects of demolitions and therefore endeavors to minimize the use of this measure to the extent possible. Consequently, demolitions are carried out only in the most extreme circumstances. 

The measure is only employed after high-ranking officials in the Ministry of Justice, security forces and the government approve its use. Moreover, as in all administrative measures, demolitions are conducted in accordance with the principles and rules of due process. Among the safeguards in place is the right of any person who might be potentially affected by the demolition to appeal directly to Israel’s Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court of Justice, exercises full judicial review over demolitions.

An example of the use of some of the safeguards by a terrorist’s family can be found in the process that preceded the 2 July demolition of the residence of the aforementioned Ziad Awad. The demolition only took place after careful review and after his family exercised their right to petition both the highest-ranking commander in the West Bank and Israel’s Supreme Court. Although after thorough consideration the Supreme Court decided to reject the petition, in light of this petition the IDF did not demolish the whole structure. Instead, only the western part of the house where Awad resided was torn down. In other cases in the past, the Supreme Court has decided to seal part of the concerned house as an alternative to demolition of the entire structure.