UN Housing Expert: Israeli House Demolition Policy is a War Crime


The Israeli settlement expansion and the house demolition and land leveling policy are aimed at acquiring territory, UN housing expert concludes in new report 


By Mette Jorgensen


GAZA CITY - In a new report, the housing expert of the UN Commission on Human Rights Miloon Kothari, concludes that the continuing Israeli house demolition and land leveling policy is a war crime according to international law. He adds that Israel is responsible for severe "misuse of and hoarding of water resources", including cutting off pipelines to Palestinian villages.

"The serial and deliberate destruction of homes and property constitutes a war crime under international law," Miloon Kothari says according to The Associate Press.

Since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, the Israeli occupation army has leveled more that 16.000 donums (16 million m2) of Palestinian land, most of it agricultural, and demolished more that 600 housing units in the Gaza strip, rendering thousands of people homeless.

Mr. Kothari, an Indian architect who visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories earlier this year, furthermore describes the continuing Israeli settlement expansion as "incendiary and provocative" and adds that settlers "are free to indulge in violence and confiscate land".

In the 27-page report under the title Report of the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Mr. Kothari describes how settler numbers have risen by 12 percent a year, whereas the Israeli population has been growing by just 2 percent a year. Thereby he rejects the Israeli claim that settlement expansion is necessary due to natural population growth.

"The active and sustained implementation of Jewish settler colonies serves the... purpose of acquiring territory and national resources and limiting the living space of the Palestinian host population," he concludes, adding that the widely publicized destruction of homes during military operations, meant to "cause optimal material and psychological harm", is just a small part of an ongoing takeover of Palestinian areas.

In the Gaza strip, Israeli settlements, bypass roads, military bases, border zones and yellow areas (areas where Palestinians live under Israeli control) take up 42 percent of the 365 km2 strip leaving only 58 percent of the area to the 1.2 million Palestinians living there.

During his visit, Mr. Kothari asked for Israeli co-operation, but the "policy has not been to engage".

"I think this is largely because they do not have sufficient answers," he says.