Israel home demolitions east Jerusalem
A Palestinian woman walks amid the rubble of a house after Israeli security forces demolished the homes of two Palestinians militants in east Jerusalem THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli forces knocked down the family homes of two Palestinian militants who carried out deadly attacks in Jerusalem, amid heightening tensions in the region. The military carried out the destructions after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a heavy-handed crackdown on sectarian violence in the wake of a series of killings in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

"We are acting with a strong hand against terrorism and against inciters − we are operating on all fronts," Netanyahu said after a late-night cabinet meeting. "We are in a difficult struggle, but one thing should be clear − we will win. Just as we defeated previous waves of terrorism, we will defeat this one as well."

The demolitions targeted the homes of Muhammad Jabis and Jamis Bin Muhammad, who respectively run over and killed a Rabbi and stabbed to death four worshippers and a police officer at synagogue in 2014.

Both men were killed by security forces in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and their families had been living in the now demolished homes. A third home, belonging to another militant who attempted to murder an Orthodox Jewish activist last year, was also sealed off ahead of its eventual demolition.

Israel has often carried out such punitive measures over the past 12 months, claiming it works as a deterrent for would-be-attackers. The much-maligned policy was brought back into currency by the government after years in which it was largely suspended, following the abduction and murder of three Jewish teens in the West Bank last summer.

Demolitions were largely discontinued in 2005, following Defence Ministry advice saying the measure was counter-productive as it stirred up more hatred. Rights groups have denounced it as immoral and a form of collective punishment.

The latest destructions came as tensions are escalating in the tormented region. On 5 October two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by Israeli troops in separate incidents in the occupied West Bank. Earlier, Israel banned Palestinians from entering the Old City of Jerusalem for the first time Israel since it seized the area in the 1967 Six-Day War. The move followed the stabbing of a 15-year-old Israeli by another Palestinian teenager, who was then shot dead by an Israeli officer.

Israeli media have warned a "Third Intifada" is on the horizon, referring to Palestinian uprisings in the 1980s and early 2000s. Israel's leading newspaper commentator, Nahum Barnea, wrote in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper: "Not calling it by name allows the political and military establishment to evade, repress, shirk responsibility."