HaMoked to the military: initiate a thorough investigation into the excessive damage caused during the punitive demolition of a third floor apartment in the West Bank
On March 30, 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, the High Court of Justice (HCJ) approved the punitive demolition
of a top-floor apartment of a three story building in Kobar village. The apartment was the home of the parents of a man standing trial for his involvement in the August 23, 2020 attack, in which Rina Shnerb was killed. The HCJ approved the military’s choice to use heavy equipment to carry out the demolition, despite an engineer’s opinion submitted by HaMoked about the likelihood of substantial damage to the ground floor of the building, which is owned by the assailant’s aunt.
In the early morning hours of May 11, 2020 – despite HaMoked’s requests
that the military refrain from demolishing homes so long as the pandemic continues – military forces arrived to carry out the demolition order as approved by the HCJ. However, as the engineer on behalf of HaMoked had anticipated, and contrary to the state’s undertakings in court, the ground floor was severely damaged and rendered uninhabitable.
Additionally, according to reports from residents of the village, the military forces carrying out the demolition caused needless and excessive damage to the fence surrounding the structure, uprooted several trees, trampled the garden, and destroyed the reservoir in the yard. A water pipe supplying water to the building's ground floor and to the neighbors was also damaged. The rubble from the demolition was not cleared, and obstructed access to a neighboring house inhabited by four families. Additionally, a telephone pole was toppled and as a result the entire neighborhood was left without a landline telephone service for 24 hours; a main electricity pole was also damaged, leaving most of the village without electricity for about a day.
In a letter to the military, sent on May 14, 2020, HaMoked clarified that the above-listed damage blatantly exceeded the scope of the demolition order – which the court had approved, as always, as a measure of deterrence. HaMoked stated that it seemed this vandalism was initiated by the forces on the ground who were acting out of vengeance. HaMoked clarified that it was the military’s responsibility to prevent such unwarranted and needless damage. HaMoked cited Justice Vogelman’s words during the hearing: “The commander has responsibility. If the commander thinks there is a chance the demolition would damage the house, he must seal it. He cannot shift the responsibly to someone else”. HaMoked therefore demanded that the military conduct a rigorous investigation of the incident and clarify how it intended to prevent such events from recurring.