Israeli troops demolish Palestinian attacker’s home as Netanyahu promises to stem violence

The east Jerusalem home of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly attack last month was demolished Wednesday, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised strict security measures in the wake of a grisly synagogue assault.

JERUSALEM — The east Jerusalem home of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly attack last month was demolished Wednesday, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised strict security measures in the wake of a grisly synagogue assault.

Tuesday’s synagogue attack, which left five people dead, was the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008 and came amid weeks of violence linked to the city’s holiest site for Jews and Muslims.

The home destroyed in the Silwan neighbourhood near the Old City belonged to Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, who killed two people last month when he drove his car into a crowd at a light rail stop in Jerusalem.

Israeli troops blasted the interior of the third-floor apartment located in a four-story apartment building, leaving piles of cinderblocks and holes in the exterior walls. The blast caused minor damage to neighbouring apartments and flattened a car parked below.

In recent weeks, Palestinian attackers using guns, knives and vehicles have killed 11 people — most in Jerusalem, but also in Tel Aviv and the West Bank. At least five Palestinians involved in the attacks were killed.

On Tuesday two Palestinian cousins wielding meat cleavers, knives and a handgun stormed a synagogue in the west Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof, killing four worshippers and a policeman. The two assailants were shot to death by police.

Responding to Tuesday’s attack, Netanyahu said he had ordered security forces to hit back hard at Palestinians involved in violence against Israelis and to resume the policy of home demolitions, a punitive tactic that has caused much controversy.

On Wednesday, he called the demolition “a significant and important step,” and said there would be more.

“We have nothing against the residents of east Jerusalem, but we will not tolerate attacks against our citizens,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office. “With a determined and firm hand we will restore security to Jerusalem.”

Sitting amid the rubble of the demolished family home, al-Shaludi’s grandmother said she was proud of him.

“No one should feel sorry for us, for our demolished home,” she said, refusing to give her full name for fear of reprisals.

Worshippers returned Wednesday to the scene of the attack, the Kehilat Bnai Torah synagogue, seeking comfort in prayer. One of them, Gavriel Cohen, said the killings showed “that our future in this world is dependent on God.”

All four of the congregants killed in the attack immigrated to Israel from English-speaking countries — three from the United States, and one from Britain.

Zidan Saif, a police officer from Israel’s Druse minority, was also among the dead, killed in a shootout with the attackers. Police said thousands of people attended his funeral Wednesday in the northern town of Jatt.

Jerusalem is witnessing its worst sustained bout of violence since a Palestinian uprising a decade ago. Al-Shaludi’s attack killed a 3-month-old girl and a 22-year-old woman as he rammed his car into the crowd waiting for the train before he was shot and killed by police.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told parliament that in response to the violence, Israel would freeze a planned easing of restrictions on movement for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Much of the violence stems from tensions surrounding the holy site on a hilltop in Jerusalem’s Old City. It is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the home of the ancient Hebrew temples. Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary, where the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the iconic gold-topped Dome of the Rock are located.

Palestinians have been angered over stepped-up Israeli visits to the site, which many of them see as a provocation.

Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable” attack on the synagogue and called on Israelis and Palestinians to take “courageous” steps to forge peace. He told his weekly General Audience at the Vatican that he was greatly concerned by the “alarming increase in tensions” in the Holy Land.

Punitive demolition was a tactic frequently used by Israeli security forces before defence chiefs decided to suspend it in 2005 after concluding it was not an effective deterrent.

Since then, it has been used occasionally — three times in east Jerusalem in 2009, and three times over the summer in response to the killing of an Israeli policeman and the killing of three Israeli teenagers.

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