Israeli demolitions ‘collective punishment’

Hebron. Sobbing, Ghada Qawasmeh stares at her destroyed home, a two-story stone villa the family built over the course of nine years.

Hebron. Sobbing, Ghada Qawasmeh stares at her destroyed home, a two-story stone villa the family built over the course of nine years. The mother of seven is inconsolable, thinking of her husband, Hussam, who is now in an Israeli prison. “This is collective punisment,” she says. “What did I or my children do?”

Before dawn on Monday, Israeli troops destroyed the Qawasmeh family’s house in Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli officials said the demolition was carried out as punishment for Hussam Qawasmeh’s alleged involvement in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli settler teens in June, and came after Israel’s supreme court affirmed the army’s position.

Last month, Israel accused three men of being behind the disappearance and subsequent death of the Israeli youths, who were hitchhiking from a Jewish settlement near Hebron: Hussam and Marwan Qawasmeh, and Amer Abu Eisha.

Abu Eisha’s family home was also demolished on Monday, while Marwan Qawasmeh’s was sealed off with cement.

“We are determined in bringing the ruthless murderers of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali to justice. The demolition of the terrorists’ homes conveys a clear message to terrorists and their accomplices that there is a personal price to pay when engaging in terror and carrying out attacks against Israelis,” said Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesperson, in a press statement.

While Marwan and Abu Eisha are in hiding, the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, said Hussam admitted to receiving funds for the operation from Hamas operatives in Gaza. But Hamas officials have denied any involvement, and so far, no evidence against the three men has been divulged. Ghada also maintains that her husband is innocent, that the real killers are still at large, and that destroying her home is merely an act of revenge. “By demolishing the house they’ll destroy my life and my children’s. There’s a million ways [to deter attacks] without destroying people’s lives,” said Ghada, who has now moved in with her in-laws.

Meanwhile, Amer Abu Eisha’s mother, Nadia, is more composed: this is the second time that her home has been demolished since 1995. Back then, a man wanted by the Israelis sought shelter in the building.