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Israeli police shoot motorist during house demolition

Rory McCarthy | The Guardian

7 April 2009

Israeli police today shot dead a Palestinian driver they said had tried to attack them during the demolition of a Palestinian home in Jerusalem.

The driver was shot at a roadblock set up by border police in Sur Bahir, a district on the city’s Arab eastern side. A police spokesman described him as a “terrorist”. Three officers were injured.

The incident came after police had begun the partial demolition of a house belonging to Husam Dweiyat, a Palestinian who drove a bulldozer down a busy Jerusalem road last July, ramming a bus and crushing cars, and killing three Israelis, before he was shot dead.

At the time police described it as a terrorist attack, although the man’s lawyer later said the bulldozer driver had been mentally ill. Dweiyat did not appear to have belonged to any armed Palestinian groups.

There have since been two similar bulldozer attacks in Jerusalem.

Last month, Israel’s supreme court rejected an appeal against the proposed demolition of the house and said it could go ahead. Israeli authorities had long argued that demolishing the homes of attackers discouraged further attacks, although the policy changed in 2005 when a military commission argued that it caused more harm than benefit. This demolition was the first since.

Armed police watched as the top floors of the stone house were knocked to the ground. Parts of the house were left standing but sealed with concrete.

Israel’s leading human rights group, B’Tselem, said the demolitions were forbidden by international humanitarian law and constituted “collective punishment”. It said between October 2001 and January 2005 – at the height of the second intifada or Palestinian uprising – Israel demolished 664 houses under the deterrent policy, leaving 4,182 Palestinians homeless.