Israel demolishes alleged attacker’s home as West Bank violence surges

Israeli forces on Thursday demolished the home of a Palestinian accused of killing a soldier in the occupied West Bank, which has been hit by a new outbreak of violence.

This week, at least 18 people have been killed in the territory, in incursions by the Israeli military, or in attacks by Palestinians or Jewish settlers.

So far this year, more than 200 people have died in violence linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

Israeli soldiers entered Nablus, the largest Palestinian city in the northern West Bank, during the night and left at dawn after demolishing Kamal Jouri’s apartment, witnesses told AFP.

The army said it “demolished… the home of Kamal Jouri, the terrorist who carried out a gun attack” in October which “caused the death of soldier Ido Baruch”.

Jouri was arrested in February and is in Israeli custody along with Osama Tawil, who is also accused of taking part in the attack and whose home was demolished on June 15, the Israeli army said.

The army said that during the operation to demolish Jouri’s home, “rioters opened fire on the soldiers, causing damage to a military vehicle”.

Israel routinely demolishes the homes of Palestinians it accuses of deadly attacks on Israelis, arguing that such measures act as a deterrent.

Human rights activists say the policy amounts to collective punishment, as it can render non-combatants, including children, homeless.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is now home to around 490,000 Israelis who live in settlements considered illegal under international law.

Deadly violence has flared in recent days in the northern West Bank, a stronghold of Palestinian armed groups where Israel has stepped up military operations.

– Drone strike –

The northern West Bank has seen a spate of attacks on Israelis as well as attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian communities over the past week.

On Monday, an Israeli army raid in Jenin refugee camp left seven people dead, including an Islamic Jihad fighter and two 15-year-olds.

The army, which fired missiles from a helicopter to clear the way for its troops, encountered strong resistance.

On Tuesday, four Israelis were killed when two Palestinian gunmen attacked a petrol station near the Eli settlement. The assailants were shot dead.

In response, Netanyahu’s office said his government would fast-track settlement expansion at Eli, despite repeated calls by the United Nations for Israel to halt such construction.

Israeli anti-settlement organisation Peace Now said Netanyahu’s announcement was intended “to appease fervent and fanatic settlers”.

On Wednesday, Israeli settlers poured into the Palestinian villages of Turmus Ayya and Al-Lubban al-Sharqiya, between Ramallah and Nablus, setting fire to houses and vehicles, witnesses and the Israeli army said.

One Palestinian was killed, either during the attack or in the chaos that followed during clashes with Israeli police.

Settlers meanwhile installed mobile homes near the Palestinian villages of Sinjil and Al-Lubban al-Sharqiya and the Israeli settlement of Eli, Palestinian officials told AFP on Thursday, fearful of a new settlement taking root.

“If the (settlement) grows, they will control the whole area as well as the main road and this will connect all the settlements in the area,” said Yaqoub Awis, mayor of Al-Lubban al-Sharqiya.

Meanwhile in a new development, the Israeli military killed three members of a “terrorist cell” in a rare West Bank drone strike on Wednesday evening, it said in a statement.

It said the cell had “carried out a number of shooting attacks toward communities” in the West Bank.

Jenin deputy governor Kamal Abu al-Roub said there were “three dismembered bodies inside” the car which he said had been hit by missiles, citing information from firefighters.

The three were militants from Jenin refugee camp, according to militant group Islamic Jihad.

The strike was the first by Israel inside the occupied Palestinian territory since August 2006, a Palestinian intelligence source told AFP.

The surge in violence linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so far this year has killed at least 174 Palestinians, 25 Israelis, a Ukrainian and an Italian.

The tally compiled from official sources includes combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, three members of the Arab minority.

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