February 23, 2016 / 8:48 AM / 4 years ago

Israel razes West Bank homes of two Palestinian assailants: army

Israeli army soldiers stand guard as bulldozers from the Israeli forces demolished 2 houses in the West Bank village of Dier Samit, south of Hebron February 23, 2016. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli army bulldozers on Tuesday demolished the homes of two Palestinians who killed five people in attacks in the occupied West Bank and Israel last year, the military said.

Mohammed al-Haroub shot at cars near an Israeli settlement bloc in the West Bank on Nov. 20, the military said, killing an Israeli, an American student and a Palestinian.

On the same day, Raed Masalmeh stabbed and killed two Israelis in a Tel Aviv office building, according to the military. Both alleged assailants were arrested.

Bulldozers tore through Haroub’s home in the village of Dir Samt and Masalmeh’s house in Dura, both in the West Bank.

Israeli officials say such demolitions could deter other Palestinians from launching attacks in a wave of stabbings, shootings and car rammings that have killed 28 Israelis and a U.S. citizen since October.

Palestinians and international critics call the destruction of family homes collective punishment. Local residents said the demolition displaced 12 of Haroub’s relatives. It was not immediately known how many people lived in Masalmeh’s house.

In the past five months, Israeli security forces have killed at least 168 Palestinians, 111 of whom Israel says were assailants, while most others were shot dead during violent anti-Israeli protests.

The recent violence has been stoked by various factors, including a dispute over Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound and the failure of several rounds of peace talks to secure the Palestinians an independent state in Israeli-occupied territory.

Palestinian leaders have said that with no breakthrough on the horizon, desperate youngsters see no future ahead. Israel says young Palestinians are being incited to violence by their leaders and by Islamist groups calling for Israel’s destruction.

Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jeffrey Heller/Jeremy Gaunt

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