Uprooting Palestinian Trees And Leveling Agricultural Land

Introduction

 For the 21st consecutive month, Israeli forces have continued to destroy civilian property, agricultural land and houses.  According to PCHR’s documentation, in the period 1st April – 30th June 2002, Israeli forces razed 1052 donums of Palestinian agricultural land and demolished 68 houses in the Gaza Strip, rendering 675 people homeless.  They also destroyed dozens of irrigation networks and water pumps that cultivated agricultural lands, as well as hundreds of beehives and farms.

From the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada until 30th June 2002, Israeli forces demolished 668 Palestinian houses, 585 completely and 102 partially in the Gaza Strip, rendering 5,725 people homeless. They have also razed 15,052 donums of land, about 12,834 of which were agricultural lands, and about 2,218 were wooded land. The areas of agricultural land razed by Israeli forces constitute 9.1% of the total area of agricultural land in the Gaza Strip (165,720 donums). 

 The destruction of hundreds of Palestinian civilian facilities, including houses, factories, workshops, agricultural land and farms, has inflicted large financial losses, which have affected, and will continue to affect, the economic, social, civil and political rights of Palestinians.

 Land leveling and property destruction carried out by the Israeli forces categorically violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Land leveling and property destruction carried out largely by Israeli forces are classified as collective penalties and measures of intimidation and terrorism against civilians, which are prohibited by Article 33 of the Convention that states: “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”[1] Land leveling and house demolitions have created wide open areas along the border with Israel, on both sides of bypass roads and near Israeli settlements and military locations, dozens  or even as much as hundreds of meters wide. This Israeli practice of creating ‘buffer zones’ is aimed at expelling the Palestinian people from these areas with the purpose of annexing the area and eventually building new illegal Jewish settlements or extending the existing illegal settlements.

 

Violations of International Humanitarian Law

 Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides that “any destruction of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or other public authorities, or social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.” Article 147 of the Connection considers “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” as a grave breach of the Convention and thus constitute a war crime.

 These unjustifiable actions also contradict the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Article 1 of the Covenant states that “in no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence,” and Article 5 does not give any state, group or person any right “to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights or freedoms recognized herein…”

 The UN Committee against Torture considered that the policies of closure and house demolition carried out by Israeli forces violate article 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and can never be justified.[2] 

 Israel always justifies land leveling and house demolition as military necessities, which in fact are never substantiated. According to PCHR’s investigations, land leveling and house demolition are not military necessities, rather they are penal measures against Palestinian civilians, that seek to seize more Palestinian land and create buffer zones along border area and near settlements and bypass roads.

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