The families of two men who carried out attacks against civilians will be punished for the actions of their relatives, said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Friday. Barak called for the demolition of the homes of the men's relatives, a move which was condemned by Israeli human rights group B'tselem as “a grave breach of international humanitarian law.” The group added that punitive home demolitions, which constitute about 10% of the home demolitions carried out by the Israeli state (the other 90% are administrative demolitions), are “a clear case of collective punishment, which violates the principle that a person is not to be punished for the acts of another.”


The two men, Hussam Duwiyat and Alaa Abu Dhaim, both carried out attacks against Jewish civilians in Jerusalem, and both men were killed by Israeli forces during the course of their attacks. Duwiyat killed three Israeli civilians this past Wednesday using a bulldozer. Abu Dhaim attacked students at the extreme right religious school Mercaz Harav in March, killing eight.


Now, the Israeli Defense Minister has insisted on punishing the families of the two men, a practice that is policy under Israeli law, but is forbidden under international human rights standards. The demolition order by Barak comes a day after Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled that demolition of the homes of family members of people who attack Israelis is permissible under Israeli law.


But the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem urged the Israeli leadership “not to sacrifice justice and morality on the altar of revenge." The group has conducted numerous studies showing that the demolition of homes of family members of attackers does not deter future attacks, but has the opposite effect, fueling anger and resentment among those affected.


In at least one of the cases in question, the house of the family of Hussam Duwiyat, is in a building housing three other families, so punishing the Duwiyat family by destroying their home would inevitably make three other families homeless as well.