Israeli forces enumerate Palestinian houses; resumption of house demolitions possible
Date: 3 April 2002
Israeli occupying forces have gathered data on several groups of Palestinian houses in the Gaza strip under threat of demolition, raising fears that they may soon be destroyed. PCHR is deeply concerned that these actions may be preliminary steps in preparation for another round of house demolitions in the Gaza strip and renews its call for the international community to demand an end to Israel’s house demolition policy.
Yesterday morning, Israeli occupying forces accompanied by a tank approached a group of Palestinian homes between Kissufim road and route 86, in the central Gaza strip. Several soldiers who identified themselves as members of the Civil Administration forced local residents to step outside of their houses and be photographed while the soldiers gathered data on the number and size of houses, as well as the number of rooms in each house, before withdrawing. Earlier in the day, Israeli occupying forces carried out similar activities in the al-Mughraqa area outside Gaza city.
Both groups of houses are located near roads reserved exclusively for Israeli settlers and soldiers. Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are a violation of Article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are a war crime under the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Several weeks ago, Israeli occupying forces informed the owners of the houses enumerated of their intention to demolish the houses. The houses near Kissufim road are owned by members of the Abu Hajaj, Abu Hadaf, and al-Zir families; the houses in al-Mugharaqa are owned the al-Khorati, Abu Khabiza, al-Atawna, al-Wuhaidi, and Azzam families.
PCHR succeeded last month in obtaining a series of orders from the Israeli Supreme Court temporarily forbidding the destruction of several groups of homes in the Gaza strip. After considering PCHR’s appeals, the Supreme Court ruled that the Israeli army cannot demolish Palestinian homes without providing owners an opportunity for appeal to the local military commander, unless doing so would threaten the lives of soldiers or if there are combat operations in the area. The ruling did not specify any criteria for military officers to decide on such appeals.
The extensive, wanton and unlawful destruction of civilian private property not justified by military necessity constitutes a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR is deeply concerned by the Supreme Court’s refusal to adhere to international humanitarian law and ban house demolitions not justified by military necessity. The Supreme Court’s attempt to legalise house demolitions and yesterday’s actions by Israeli occupying forces both underscore the need for the international community to demand an end to Israel’s house demolition policy in the OPT.
For this reason, PCHR is continuing its international campaign with governments, UN officials, and civil society to end Israel’s house demolition policy in the OPT. Israeli occupying forces have completely demolished over 520 houses in the Gaza strip during the al-Aqsa Intifada (excluding houses destroyed or damaged in indiscriminate shelling and bombardment) and razed over 15 million square meters of agricultural land.