Israeli forces have reportedly threatened to expel the family of 28-year-old Saleh Barghouthi, who was killed by Israeli special forces last month, from their home in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah.
Barghouthi was accused of carrying out a shooting attack near an Israeli settlement that left seven soldiers and settlers injured.
During a nighttime operation to detain him last month, Israeli special forces claimed he was shot during a commotion and died of his wounds. His body has yet to be returned to his family.
Ma’an News Agency reported that the Israeli army on Saturday informed the Barghouthi family, who live in the Kobar village, that if their son Assem, Saleh’s brother, did not turn himself into the army, the family would be forcibly expelled to the Jericho area of the West Bank.
The army is reportedly accusing Assem of carrying out a copy-cat attack, the day after Saleh was killed, that resulted in the death of two Israeli soldiers.
According to Ma’an, the family was told their son has three days to turn himself in or the family would be expelled to Jericho.
Israeli forces also detained Saleh’s youngest brother, Muhammad, 17, and his uncle, Lutfi Barghouthi.
Since the killing of Saleh Barghouthi, Israeli forces have arrested several of his family members, including his father, and at least 10 other people from the village.
Barghouthi’s killing came amidst of a wave of violence in the West Bank that prompted Israel to step up its efforts to “deter” future attacks, including a bill to forcibly expel the families of accused attackers to other parts of the West Bank.
It is not clear whether the army would legally be allowed to expel the Barghouthi family, given that the bill has only passed its first reading in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and needs to pass at least two more votes before becoming law.
“The expulsion of terrorists’ families,” the draft of the bill states, “is a proven deterrent that has the power to decrease terrorist attacks and save lives.”
The director of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence agency, reportedly opposed the bill, saying that it would be nearly impossible to implement, and that it would “bring about a result that is the opposite of deterrence since its implementation would create tensions.”
Haaretz quoted a senior security official as saying that the bill was being pushed as a result of public pressure in the wake of a spate of attacks targeting Israeli settlers, not out of an actual security or operational need.
“How exactly are we supposed to do this?” the unnamed official said. “Take families and throw them in the Hebron Hills? And then what? Watch them so that they don’t move? Chase them each time they go back to their village and then throw them out again?”
For years the Israeli government has enacted a series of these so-called “deterrence” measures including demolishing the family homes of accused attackers, shutting down entire villages where a suspected attacker is from, conducting massive arrest operations targeting family and friends of the accused, and revoking the Israeli work permits of close and distant relatives of an attacker.
Rights groups have criticized the government’s policies as collective punishment, and Israeli military officials have previously made recommendations to the government that such practices did not actually deter attacks.
The expulsion of the families of attackers from their homes could amount to forcible transfer — a war crime under international law.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has said this of the practice: “Forcible transfer – by direct physical force or by creating a coercive environment that makes residents leave their homes – is a war crime. All people responsible for it – including the Israeli prime minister and the minister of defense – bear personal liability.”