Ref: 129/2003

This morning,
Wednesday, October 1, 2003, Israeli occupying forces demolished 18 houses in
Block L of the Rafah refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip. The demolition
operation took place under intense shelling and indiscriminate shooting within
the camp and was followed by further shelling as Israeli forces withdrew.

 The operation
left 270 Palestinian, mostly children, homeless, adding to the thousands of
other Palestinian civilians made homeless in similar Israeli military
operations throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Since the
beginning of Al Aqsa Intifada (September 2000), Israeli occupying forces have
demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes in Rafah in similar operations,
justified by Israeli authorities for ‘security’ reasons. However, the facts on
the ground prove that these demolitions represent a strategic policy to clear a
large area of Palestinian land near the border with Egypt to facilitate a wide
buffer zone to increase Israeli military control in the area. Israeli forces
have begun construction of a concrete and metal wall parallel to the border
with Egypt on land cleared of Palestinian homes in similar demolition

 According to
PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 1am, Israeli occupying forces invaded
the area, accompanied by tanks and 4 bulldozers, and moved 200m inside Block L
in Rafah refugee camp, located adjacent to the Palestinian border with Egypt.
Under heavy shelling, bulldozers started to demolish houses inside the camp
without any prior warning and without allowing the residents to remove
belongings from their homes. The military operation continued until 5am, during
which time 18 homes were demolished; 13 completely demolished, 5 partially

 As a result of
the operation, 44 Palestinian families (270 people, mostly children) were made
homeless. During the invasion, Israeli occupying forces raided the home of
Ahmed Jaber, using it as a military post from which they shot at Palestinian
civilians in the area.  2 Palestinians were injured during the attack, 1


1. Kamal Ezzidine Al Bashiti, 47, sustained serious shrapnel
wounds to the head

2. Khairi Abed Barhoum, 37, shrapnel wound to the right hand


PCHR remains deeply
concerned about the ongoing violations of international human rights and
humanitarian law, carried out by Israeli occupying forces against the
Palestinian civilian population in the OPT.  PCHR has consistently
reiterated its concerns about the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian
civilian property, including homes, educational and health facilities,
commercial properties, and civilian infrastructure.  The extensive destruction
of civilian property, carried out wantonly and unlawfully without military
necessity, constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. 
PCHR reasserts that the ongoing failure of the international community,
specifically the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to
intervene to ensure protection for the Palestinian civilian population has
served to encourage further violations of international human rights and
humanitarian law.  Thus, PCHR calls upon the international community to
take immediate steps to ensure the protection of the Palestinian civilian
population in the OPT.