Israel launches crackdown after attacks
Israel began a crackdown in east Jerusalem yesterday, a day after an assault by Palestinians on a synagogue killed five people, razing the home of a resident behind an earlier deadly attack.
The demolition, which took place before dawn, was carried out after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised a harsh response to the synagogue attack which killed four rabbis at prayer and a policeman.
Two Palestinians wielding meat cleavers and a gun ran amok in the rare assault on a place of worship which was the city's bloodiest attack in six years.
It came as Israel struggles to contain a wave of unrest in annexed Arab east Jerusalem that has seen a growing number of deadly attacks by lone Palestinians.
"I have ordered the destruction of the homes of the Palestinians who carried out this massacre and to speed up the demolitions of those who carried out previous attacks," Netanyahu said late on Tuesday.
Several hours later, Israeli forces went to the flashpoint east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan and demolished the third-floor apartment of the family of Abdelrahman Shaludi, who deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of pedestrians last month, killing a young woman and a baby.
Shaludi was shot by police at the scene after his October 22 rampage.
Punitive house demolitions have been used by Israel for years in the West Bank but the policy was halted in 2005 after the army said they had no proven deterrent effect.
Until now, razing homes has never been adopted as a matter of policy in annexed Arab east Jerusalem.
Human rights groups have denounced the practice as collective punishment targeting not the perpetrators but their families.
And last week, the US State Department warned that demolishing homes would be "counterproductive" and would "exacerbate an already tense situation" in Jerusalem.