Israelis knock down home in attacks reprisal

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Israeli forces have demolished the east Jerusalem home of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly attack, hours after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised strict measures to deal with increased violence in the area.

The demolition in the Silwan area targeted the property of 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. He was then shot dead by police.

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.

The victims include four Jewish worshippers and an Israeli policeman who were killed after two Palestinian cousins, wielding meat cleavers, knives and a handgun, stormed a synagogue in the west Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof.

The two assailants were shot to death by police afterwards.

The attack was the deadliest in Jerusalem since 2008 and 
sharply escalated already high tensions after weeks of religious violence.

Responding to the attack on Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu said he had ordered security forces to hit back hard at Palestinians involved in violence against Israelis, and resume the policy of home demolitions, a punitive tactic that has caused much controversy in the past.

Sitting amid the rubble of 
the al-Shaludi family home 
after its demolitions, his 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.

Meanwhile, worshippers returned to the scene of the most recent 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 people killed in the attack had come 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 three-month-old baby girl and a 22-year-old woman as he rammed his car into the train stop.

Much of the violence stems from tensions surrounding a contested hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, its most sacred site.

It 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 increased Israeli visits to the site, which many see as a provocation.

Punitive demolition was 
a tactic frequently employed by Israeli security forces before defence chiefs decided to suspend it in 2005 after concluding it was not an effective deterrent.

Pope Francis has condemned what he called an “unacceptable” attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, and is calling for Israel and the Palestinians to take “courageous” steps to forge peace.

Francis told his weekly General Audience that he was greatly 
concerned by the “alarming increase in tensions” in the Holy Land.

Two Palestinian cousins carried out the attack on Tuesday, killing five people, and drawing a vow of retaliation from Israel.

Francis, who hosted the Israeli and Palestinian presidents for a day-long peace prayer in the Vatican gardens last summer, said he was praying for all victims.

He urged both sides to end the “spiral of hatred and violence and take courageous decisions for reconciliation and peace”.

The Pope added: “To build peace is difficult, but to live without peace is a torment.”