Israel demolished the east Jerusalem home of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly October attack, just hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised strict security measures in the wake of a grisly synagogue assault a day earlier.
The synagogue attack, which left five people dead, was the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008 and came amid weeks of violence linked to a disputed holy site sacred to Jews and Muslims. Nearly a dozen people have been killed in attacks by Palestinians using guns, knives and vehicles.
The house demolished in the Silwan neighborhood near the Old City belonged to Abdel Rahman al-Shaludi, who killed two people last month when he drove his car into a crowd standing on a light rail platform in Jerusalem.
In recent weeks, a total of 11 people have died at the hands of Palestinian attackers — most in Jerusalem but also in Tel Aviv and the West Bank.
On Tuesday two Palestinian cousins wielding meat cleavers, knives and handguns stormed a synagogue in the west Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof, killing four worshippers and a policeman. The two assailants were shot dead 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 in the past.
Sitting amid the rubble of the family home demolished early Wednesday, al-Shaludi’s grandmother said she was proud of his actions.
“No one should feel sorry for us, for our demolished home,” she said, refusing to give her full name for fear of reprisals.
Worshippers meanwhile returned Wednesday to the scene of the attack, the Kehilat Bnai Torah synagogue, seeking comfort in prayer. One of them, Gavriel Cohen, said the attack 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.
In recent weeks, Jerusalem has seen its worst sustained bout of violence since a Palestinian uprising a decade ago. Al-Shaludi’s attack killed a 3-month-old baby girl and a 22-year-old woman as he rammed his car into the train stop before he was shot dead by police.
Much of the violence stems from tensions surrounding a contested hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City. The location is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site of the ancient Hebrew temples. For Muslims, it is the Noble Sanctuary, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the iconic gold-topped Dome of the Rock.
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 for Israelis and Palestinians to take “courageous” steps to forge peace. He told his weekly General Audience that he was greatly concerned by the “alarming increase in tensions” in the Holy Land.
Punitive demolition was a tactic frequently employed by Israeli security forces before defense 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 murder of three Israeli teenagers.