Demolition interrupted: Israeli court stops IDF bulldozing terrorist killer’s home

Israeli court rules to stop planned demolition of terrorist’s home. MK Naftali Bennett promises to appeal the decision.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The Israeli Supreme Court struck down a warrant permitting the IDF to demolish the home of terrorist Mahmoud Atouna on Wednesday. Atouna was the ringleader of the terror cell that planned and executed the murder of yeshiva student and IDF soldier Dvir Sorek in August 2019.

The three-judge panel ruled that too much time had elapsed since the killing for the house demolition to be an effective deterrent for future terrorist acts, and that the destruction of the home would unfairly punish Atouna’s wife and three children, who did not support his actions and had no knowledge of them.

“In the absence of the deterrent effect, the demolition order is merely punitive,” wrote Justices Anat Baron and Uzi Fogelman.

Judge David Mintz, in his dissenting opinion, said that he believed the house demolition should move forward. He wrote, “The elapsed time [since the killing] should not mean a decision to refrain from exercising authority.”

Right-wing politicians spoke out against the decision. Former Justice Minister and Yamina MK Ayelet Shaked said, “This is a terrible decision. Judge Mintz, who was appointed during my tenure, was in favor of the house demolition in a minority opinion.”

“Judge Vogelman, on the other hand gave great weight to the feelings of the terrorist’s family, or in his words, the ‘injured family,’ while ignoring the feelings of the Sorek family. It is a certificate of impropriety for this government that the Judicial Committee is back to the Left, as well as the judges themselves.”

Former Defense Minister and Yamina MK Naftali Bennett said, “During my tenure as Defense Minister, I issued a demolition order for a terrorist’s home. I call on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, and the Minister of Justice to demand an immediate re-hearing on this issue in the Supreme Court.”

Sorek, a resident of Ofra, was commuting to the Migdal Oz yeshiva where he studied when he was attacked. After getting off a bus, he was stabbed to death by two assailants. Several days after the murder, Israeli security forces arrested brothers Nazir Saleh Khalil Atafra, 24, a Hamas-affiliated militant and Qasem Araf Khalil Atafra, 30, of Bayt Kahil.

In November 2019, the IDF razed the Khalil Atafra family home, as well as the home of another Palestinian man involved in Sorek’s murder.