HEBRON, West Bank – Israel stepped up its policy of demolishing homes of Palestinian militants, blowing up nine houses in the West Bank Sunday as part of an effort to discourage attacks.
The army said the houses were residences for Palestinians "who committed or planned murderous acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians."
Israel began demolishing the homes of Palestinian attackers decades ago, but largely abandoned the controversial policy in recent years. It revived the tactic in recent weeks, and the tearing down of nine houses in three areas Sunday represented the largest one-day effort so far.
In the northern West Bank, Israeli soldiers blew up one home in Jenin and three more in surrounding villages, the army and Palestinian witnesses said. Three others near Nablus also were destroyed. All belonged to the families of suicide bombers, Palestinians and the army said.
In the southern West Bank city of Hebron, soldiers demolished homes of two Palestinians accused of entering a Jewish settlement April 27 and killing four Israelis, including a 5-year-old girl.
The houses belonged to Tariq Dufish and Fadi Duek, who entered the nearby settlement of Adora and staged a house-to-house shooting spree, Israel said. Dufish was killed by Israeli soldiers and Duek is in an Israeli jail.
Israeli soldiers came to the Dufish home around 1 a.m. Sunday and gave the family 10 minutes to get out, Tariq Dufish's brother, Nader, said.
"We weren't able to get anything out, they also told the neighbors to leave their homes," Dufish said. "They put dynamite and there was a big explosion, even the houses around this one were severely damaged."
He said eight people lived in the one-story house.
A pink quilt covered in dust lay beside mattresses and pillows in the rubble of the Dufish home.
People picked through the remains of the Duek house, collecting tattered photographs and scattered pages of the Quran, Islam's holy book. An elderly woman sat among the wreckage crying, her black handbag at her feet.
On slabs of concrete were spraypainted slogans: "This is the peace of the brave," a sarcastic comment on the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, and, "Another heroic deed from the criminal [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon."
So far, the house demolitions do not appear to have deterred the Palestinian militants.
A Sunday bombing on a bus in northern Israel, apparently the work of a Palestinian suicide bomber, killed eight others. In Jerusalem, a Palestinian assailant started shooting near the Old City, sparking a firefight that left three dead, including the gunman.
Eli Karmon, an Israeli counterterrorism expert, said the demolition policy was just one part of an overall strategy to prevent suicide bombings.
"It is not foolproof, it is not the only means, it must be seen in the context of the whole fight against terrorism," Karmon said.
Israel frequently demolished homes during the first Palestinian uprising from 1987-1993. But Israel largely halted the practice after signing a 1993 peace accord with the Palestinians.
Many Palestinian homes house large extended families, and Palestinians have complained that the actions punish those not involved in the attacks.
However, Israel says it has resumed knocking down the homes in hopes that would-be attackers will refrain from carrying out assaults if they know their actions will harm their families.