Center for the Defence of the Individual - Eight years after a military demolition in Hebron: Israel will compensate a neighbor whose apartment and its contents were damaged in result of the uncontrolled use of explosives
Eight years after a military demolition in Hebron: Israel will compensate a neighbor whose apartment and its contents were damaged in result of the uncontrolled use of explosives
In the early hours of May 26, 2003, a large military force arrived at an apartment building in Hebron. The soldiers ordered all of the occupants to evacuate their apartments and clear away from the building. Two hours later, the soldiers notified they were about to demolish the fourth floor apartment, the home of a family of a perpetrator of a terror attack in Israel. The occupants requested the soldiers to allow them to remove some of their belongings, but were refused. The soldiers detonated the apartment with a large amount of explosives. The blast destroyed the apartment and severely damaged the building.  

Two months later, HaMoked applied to the military on behalf of the neighboring family whose property had been damaged in the blast, demanding to investigate the incident and prosecute those responsible for the damage incurred. Over a year later, the military replied briefly that the soldiers had acted properly.

On January 31, 2005, the father of the family filed a civil claim through HaMoked against the State of Israel for the massive property damage he suffered unjustly, caused by the detonation of the neighboring apartment. On April 22, 2007, following its deletion due to procedural issues, the civil claim was resubmitted.

In the statement of claim, HaMoked contended that in the blast, the plaintiff's apartment directly below had sustained substantial damage: the balcony had collapsed, the walls and ceiling had been partially ruined, windows shattered, and the water and sewage systems damaged. Most of the household furniture and electrical appliances had been irreparably damaged. Following the military action, the plaintiff's home had became uninhabitable, leaving the family no choice but to rent another apartment and purchase new furniture. In addition to the financial damage, his family – the wife and two young children – suffered trauma and mental anguish.   

HaMoked noted that the rules of international customary law prohibit the destruction of private property unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations; also forbidden are collective punishment, acts with the aim to intimidate or terrorize, and reprisals against protected persons and their property. Furthermore, under Regulation 119 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations, 1945, relied upon by the military, a demolition order is requisite for the purpose of a house demolition, but in this case, no such order was presented to the building occupants. Moreover, Regulation 119 does not authorize the destruction of any property beyond the house designated for demolition. HaMoked stressed that the state's position, as previously presented in response to other relevant HCJ petitions, was that adjacent houses must not be damaged and anyone whose house had been damaged during the demolition of another, targeted, house, is entitled to compensation for damages he incurred.  

In its statement of defense, the state claimed the military's actions had been properly considered and proportionate, and exercised with care and skill. The State added that the damages suffered by the plaintiff had occurred in the scope of wartime action, as defined and interpreted by law and case-law; that this action constitutes an Act of State, and that the state is exempt from liability for an act performed under lawful authorization, and in good faith, as prescribed in Article 3 of the Civil Wrongs (Liability of the State) Law, 5712-1952.

In February 2011, almost 8 years after the military demolished the house and caused substantial damage to its surroundings, the parties reached a settlement, which was endorsed by the court, whereby the state paid the Plaintiff a total of NIS 45,000 in compensation.