Israel Bulldozer Palestine Mosque
Palestinian protesters run away as an Israeli military bulldozer clears a road block placed by protesters during clashes at a demonstration against the nearby Jewish settlement of Kedumim Reuters

Israel's demolition of suspected Palestinian terrorists' houses effectively curbs terrorism, a new study has said.

According to the paper Counter-Suicide-Terrorism: Evidence from House Demolitions - to be published in the Journal of Politics in January 2015 - the "punitive demolition" of the houses causes "an immediate, significant decrease in the number of suicide attacks."

The authors, from Northwestern University in Illinois and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, examined data on house demolitions between 2000 and 2005, and found that punitive house demolitions during that time led to "fewer suicide attacks in the month following," while precautionary demolitions caused "a significant increase in the number of suicide attacks."

"The results support the view that selective violence is an effective tool to combat terrorist groups and that indiscriminate violence backfires," the paper said.

The study is the first to claim to disprove the widespread belief that punitive house demolitions do not dissuade would-be terrorists.

Demolition as punishment was resumed by Israel in November 2014, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that security officials use a heavy hand against extremists.

Netanyahu's decision followed an incident involving Abed Abdelrahman Shaludeh, a Palestinian who rammed his car into people waiting at a light rail station in October, killing two.

Since that time, Israel has destroyed the family homes of several Palestinian suspected terrorists, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Israel's demolition policy has been widely criticised abroad, with the UN claiming it violates international law and must be halted.

"Punitive demolitions must stop. They contravene international law and risk undermining the already fragile situation," James W Rawley, the UN's deputy special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said. "Human rights violations are not only a symptom of the continued conflict here, they contribute to it.

"Punitive demolitions are a form of collective penalty that punishes people for acts they did not commit. They render innocent people homeless. The impact on children, women and the elderly is particularly devastating."