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Israel Destroys Homes of Suspected Palestinian Militants - 2002-07-19


The Israeli army has destroyed the homes of two suspected Palestinian militants and detained more than 20 of their family members for possible exile. The change in tactics is aimed at stopping future attacks on Israelis.

The army says it demolished the houses of two wanted militants near the West Bank city of Nablus and detained a number of their male relatives.

The Israeli foreign ministry said the government is considering exiling the detainees to other parts of the Palestinian territories, specifically to the Gaza Strip.

Spokesman Daniel Taub said such a policy would be intended to deny suicide bombers a supportive environment.

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat called the detentions a war crime and a crime against humanity. The Palestinian militant group Hamas threatened to expand its campaign of suicide bombings if Israel goes through with the plan.

Israel has used the tactic once before, between 1987 and 1993, during the first Palestinian uprising, or Intifada.

The new policy appears to have the support of liberal members of the government. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres suggested that he is in favor of it. He told Israel Radio that as long as the policy is legally employed, he favors it.

One of the wanted militants, Nasser a-Din Assidi, is believed to be responsible for at least two attacks on Israelis, including the ambush of a Jewish settler's bus in the West Bank Tuesday that killed eight.

The other man, Ali Ahmad al-Ajouri, is accused of being behind the attack in Tel Aviv Wednesday in which two suicide bombers killed three people. About 60 people were wounded in the two attacks.

The attacks were the first in nearly a month, since Israeli forces re-occupied seven major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank after a spate of suicide bomb attacks in Israel.