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Israel To Destroy Militant’s Home

October 22, 1997

ASSIRA, West Bank (AP) _ Fatma Yassin bore 13 children in her simple stone-and-concrete house that clings to a steep hillside in this West Bank village. Now she is counting what will likely be her final days there.

A month after Israel identified her 25-year-old son Tawfiq as one of the suicide bombers responsible for a pair of bloody attacks in Jerusalem, Israeli military authorities have served notice that the home where the Yassin clan has lived for 50 years is to be razed.

In this olive-growing village of 8,000 people in the mountains just north of the West Bank city of Nablus, three other homes _ also occupied by the families of suicide bombers belonging to the radical Islamic group Hamas _ are set to be sealed, partly wrecked or demolished.

Israel considers this a deterrent, meant to give pause to those considering a violent attack.

``If we can save lives by taking measures against property, then what’s more important, property or lives?″ Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel said Wednesday.

The families, though, call it cruel collective punishment.

``Even if Tawfiq did this thing, what did the rest of the family do? Why should we suffer for it?″ Yassin’s 20-year-old brother, Taher, said angrily.

Human rights groups have condemned the practice. ``To call it a deterrent and not a punishment _ that’s playing with words,″ said Yuval Ginbar of the Israeli human rights group Betselem.

There have been about 500 so-called ``security″ demolitions in the past 10 years, he said, in addition to thousands of other demolitions carried out for lack of building permits.

Israel says the four young men from Assira and a fifth unidentified bomber carried out the attacks in Jerusalem, one at a packed open-air vegetable market and the second at a downtown pedestrian mall. A total of 26 people were killed, including the bombers.

Israeli soldiers knocked on the door after midnight nine days ago and presented Fatma Yassin with an order to demolish the house, where seven people live.

Orders were served the same night to the families of three other suicide bombers, all boyhood friends from the village, whose mangled remains were identified by blood and DNA tests.

All four families plan to appeal Sunday to Israel’s Supreme Court, but military authorities’ right to carry out demolitions has consistently been upheld. Even the families’ lawyer, Hosni Kalbona, acknowledges the chances of success are slim.

Normally an appeal takes about a week, and then the demolition order is finalized, with the families given 48 hours’ notice. The bulldozers usually arrive at dawn.

Anticipating the worst, the Yassins have begun moving heavy furniture out of the house. Despite rain and chilly winds, they plan to erect a tent on the site and live there, tending their goats and donkey.

Across a cleft in the hill, the father of 22-year-old Yousef Shouli was not ready to accept the loss of his son, let alone his home.

``He is young and foolish,″ Jamil Ahmed Shouli said, sipping bitter black coffee. ``But I have a gut feeling my son is alive _ this is all a mistake.″

The family house is 80 years old, graced by a grape-arbored terrace looking out over the valley. One room upstairs has original Palestinian tilework and arched windows.

The demolition order is for the entire structure, including a rental apartment occupied by a doctor and a section of the house deeded earlier to a niece. Shouli hopes at least part of the home will be spared.

Just up the winding street is the house of Bashar Salawah, 23, which is to be partly sealed off, and down a narrow alleyway is the home of Moawiya Jarara, 22, which was ordered partly wrecked.

Last month, Israeli troops blockaded Assira for 19 days, ransacking homes in search of accomplices and evidence.

The village, which takes its name from the Arabic verb for pressing, is famous for its olives and olive oil.

Fatma Yassin, picking olives with her 20-year-old son Salaam, said she still does not believe her son, Tawfiq, carried out the bombing. But if he did, ``I’ll accept it and be proud, because he would be a martyr who died for a cause,″ she said.

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