The Israel Defense Forces early Tuesday morning demolished the West Bank apartment of a Palestinian man who carried out a deadly terror shooting outside a Tel Aviv cafe in March.
Or Eshkar, 32, was killed as a result of the attack, succumbing to his wounds 11 days later.
Two other Israelis were wounded in the shooting by 23-year-old Mutaz Salah al-Khawaja, who was gunned down in a shootout with police officers and civilians after fleeing from Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street where he had initially opened fire.
IDF soldiers arrived en masse at al-Khawaja’s hometown of Ni’lin outside Ramallah after midnight on Tuesday and were met with resistance from local Palestinian youth.
According to Palestinian media, calls were made from the loudspeakers of the village’s mosques, urging locals to converge on al-Khawaja’s home in order to thwart the demolition.
An explosive device was hurled and fireworks were launched at the Israeli soldiers who responded with gunfire of their own, the IDF said. The army ordered families living in homes nearby to evacuate, and IDF snipers posted on their rooftops to offer protection to troops below, Palestinian media said.
No Israeli soldiers were injured during the operation, the IDF said.
Only al-Khawaja’s apartment, on the first floor of the four-story building, was demolished in a controlled explosion.
As a matter of policy, Israel regularly demolishes the homes of Palestinians accused of carrying out deadly terror attacks as well as their accomplices. The efficacy of the policy has been hotly debated even within the Israeli security establishment, while human rights activists denounce the practice as unjust collective punishment.
The demolition process generally takes several months, as the home needs to be mapped out, the High Court must address potential appeals by the family, and security forces often wait for an optimal time to enter Palestinian cities or neighborhoods for the operation.
The Hamas terror group said al-Khawaja was a member of its armed wing. He did not have an entry permit to Israel when he carried out the attack.
#מחבלים #ערבים ירו #זיקוקים לעבר חיילי #צהל בכפר #נעלין.
MTI – Ashram https://t.co/K8Y7jpzfBt pic.twitter.com/4LaHc4E9Ra
— MTI – Ashram (@chens2111) May 22, 2023
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the Israeli military conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank, in the wake of a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
In separate overnight raids across the West Bank, the IDF said Tuesday morning that troops detained 11 wanted Palestinians and seized several firearms.
לוחמי צה”ל, שב”כ ומג”ב פעלו הלילה למעצר 11 מבוקשים ברחבי יהודה ושומרון ובחטיבת הבקעה והעמקים; במבצע לאיתור אמצעי לחימה בחברון איתרו הלוחמים כלי נשק ותחמושת >> pic.twitter.com/3k2dkYC0RD
— צבא ההגנה לישראל (@idfonline) May 23, 2023
A day before the demolition, three Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during an overnight raid in the Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank.
The al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade terror group later released a statement saying the three had been members of the organization. It said they were killed while battling Israeli forces.
In a statement, the IDF said it had carried out the operation to arrest terror suspects, with three taken into custody. The IDF said it located a laboratory containing dozens of kilograms of explosives that were to be used for attacks. The military said a team destroyed the site.
The IDF said that during the operation, Palestinian suspects threw explosives and rocks at soldiers, and the troops responded with fire. One officer was lightly hurt by shrapnel.
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 19 people and left several more seriously hurt. At least 111 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.