Israel revived one of its most controversial policies yesterday by blowing up the East Jerusalem home of a Palestinian man who killed two people, including a three-month-old baby, by deliberately smashing his car into a crowded tram stop.
A controlled explosion before 5am reduced the inside of Abdel-Rahman Shaloudi's fourth-floor flat to rubble, leaving his parents and five siblings homeless.
Other residents in the five-storey block in the Silwan neighbourhood said their homes sustained structural damage in the blast.
It was carried out after Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, ordered the resumption of the long-shelved policy following a series of recent attacks. The Israeli leader said he would issue demolition orders on the homes of two Palestinians who attacked the Bnei Torah synagogue in West Jerusalem with meat cleavers and a gun on Tuesday leaving four rabbis and a police officer dead.
The two, Ghassam and Uday Abu Jamal, cousins from Jabal Mukaber in East Jerusalem, were shot dead by police at the scene.
The homes of the perpetrators of four other attacks in the past month have also been earmarked for demolition
Israel abandoned house demolitions in 2005, ironically on the recommendation of Moshe Ya'alon, now defence minister and then the army chief of staff, who said they were counterproductive and promoted hatred that fuelled further attacks by militant groups.
The policy had been widely used in response to deadly suicide bombings during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) that broke out in 2000. Critics said it was ineffectual because families affected received money to buy bigger and better houses.
It has been resurrected after security officials said the situation had changed.
Shaloudi's home was first on the list apparently because his attack on the Ammunition Hill tram station on October 22 was the opening salvo in a recent wave of violence that has left 10 Israelis and one foreign national dead. Yehuda Glick, a Right-wing activist, was also seriously injured in a shooting attack on October 29.
Family members said Israeli security forces forcibly evacuated all 50 people living in the five-storey block at around 1am. They spent the night in a nearby tent used to stage local protests.
Several hours after being evacuated, they saw a flash of lightening and followed by a loud explosion as Israeli forces blew up the flat, said Shaloudi's mother, Ines (43). Piles of broken masonry rained down on the street below, badly damaging a car parked nearby.
The family had moved furniture and other possessions to a neighbouring flat after receiving a demolition order last week.
Other residents said their flats had been ransacked after the evacuation while one said the equivalent of €16,600 in Israeli currency had been stolen from his home.
Mrs Shaloudi insisted her son drove into the tram station by accident and said he had been suffering from paranoia at the time, which had led to her making an appointment with him to see a psychiatrist.
Shaloudi, who was 21 and had spent more than a year inside an Israeli prison for stone throwing, never made the November 9 appointment.
He was shot by police at the scene of the tram station incident and later died of his injuries.
"The Israeli intelligence was putting pressure on him," said Mrs Shaloudi.
"They kept calling him every day and wanted him to work for them. He became suspicious of everybody and thought everyone was a collaborator. He hadn't slept for three days (at the time of the attack). Last February he was arrested along with his father and held in a cell for 20 days, without being allowed to see a lawyer."
(© Daily Telegraph, London)